With six games remaining, the Newcastle Jets are on the hunt for finals football in the A-League and need just one tactical tweak to make it happen.

If the Jets afford the opposition more of the ball and punish teams on the counter, the Jets will make the six. Call it negative, call it boring, but this tweak will give Newcastle the best chance of closing that two point gap in the coming rounds.

We’ve already seen the Jets dabble in these tactics in recent weeks. Their 3-1 win over Melbourne City three rounds ago is a prime example. The Jets allowed City to have most of the ball, and were compact and robust in defence. In transition, the Jets were deadly and punished their opposition by scoring two counter-attacking goals in quick succession late into the second half.

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Conversely, when the Jets go with a more traditional head-to-head approach, they’ve shown a tendency of being outplayed and outscored. It’s time for Newcastle to bite the bullet and commit to this counter-attacking play-style that has worked so well for them in recent history.

Coach Ernie Merrick has admitted his reluctance to utilising this pragmatic approach.

“The system today worked well. I wouldn’t like to play that system all the time, but the boys did their job,” Merrick said after that 3-1 counter-attacking clinic against Melbourne City.

Because it’s so late into the season, now is the time to abandon the notion of ‘attractive’ or ‘positive’ football and play for results like this. Among the final six games, Newcastle’s most challenging games are against Wellington Phoenix, Perth Glory and Sydney FC. These are the games in which Merrick’s pragmatic style could pay dividends.

The Jets have the perfect personnel to execute this tactical setup effectively too. In defence, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Nigel Boogaard are the two pillars that keep the Jets defensively robust and organised.

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In midfield, Ugarkovic allows for a seamless transition from defence to attack, and has shown a recent tendency to make bursting runs forward. Up front, the Jets have fast and slick attackers who play much more effectively when there is space in front of them to run into. Roy O’Donovan, Jair and Joey Champness off the bench are lethal in transition.

There’s nothing more frustrating to a Jets fan than seeing poor old Dimi Petratos trying his hardest to make magic happen in front of a bank of six defenders – and this only happens when the Jets have most of the ball.

The argument that a pragmatic counter-attacking play style is ‘negative’ or ‘anti-football’ is rubbish, especially when you see how exciting this Jets team are when they fly in formation from one side of the pitch to the other.

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Against tougher opposition, the Jets will have a better chance of snatching something if they play in this way. However against lesser opposition, such as the Central Coast Mariners, Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar in their remaining games, the Jets should look to dominate possession and outplay their opposition.

With only six games remaining, the Jets and Ernie Merrick need to commit to a more pragmatic style and maximise their points tally if they want to land a spot in the finals.

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Intern at The Football Sack covering The Newcastle Jets A-League and W-League home matches!