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  • Writer's pictureJack Twohill

The killer instinct Rob Stanton's Newcastle Jets are lacking so far

The Newcastle Jets managerial role may be the most difficult currently in the A-League Men. With a lack of ownership, funding, and fan disdain for the club's status, results on the pitch have been hard to come by. However, Rob Stanton's side has unexpectedly shown they have the potential to score goals and defy opinion this season. This surprise has made their start to the 2023/24 campaign all the more frustrating, as Stanton has struggled to find the killer instinct within his squad to finish off opponents and take maximum points from any of their first three matches.

Rob Stanton has been left frustrated by two draws from three games to start his first A-League Men season in Newcastle. (Michael Gorton Images)

In their opening round draw against Perth Glory, even in the 5-3 defeat to Melbourne Victory which followed it, noted for an all-time outstanding performance by Bruno Fornaroli, Newcastle have proven they have a few productive attacking assets. This quality shone through more at the weekend against the Western Sydney Wanderers. Apostolos Stamatelopoulos stunned Marko Rudan's side with a brace within the first 40 minutes, as the first half demonstrated how dangerous Stanton's side can be in transitional phases.

The pace of Trent Buhagiar was searing, with the Wanderers' defence finding it difficult to contain him. However, on the balance of the match, Newcastle would feel they could have come away with more than a draw in the first game in front of their home supporters, as the Jets rued wasting a host of chances. These wasted chances may have cost the home side a crucial three points and the opportunity to move as high as eighth on the table, even if only three weeks into the season.

Unfortunately for the home side, this trend isn't an isolated one, even in the infancy of 2023/24. The Jets' attack is highly productive for the possession they have had thus far, currently scoring at a rate of 2.3 goals per game with an average of only 42.7% possession, as Stanton moulds his team to be effective in transition.

The defensive capability of the squad has been exposed recently, with the Jason Hoffman centre-back experiment seemingly over, as Newcastle looked much more secure against the Wanderers with Mark Natta and Phillip Cancar anchoring the backline. With that side of the ball perhaps already solved, it is the wastefulness in the final third that is preventing Stanton from securing his first win as a Newcastle Jets manager.

The Jets are averaging 1.3 big chances missed per match, highlighting the squad's need for a clinician in the attacking third. There are teams in the A-League Men dwarfing this statistic significantly, such as Adelaide United, who have missed closer to four big chances per match. But based on Newcastle's ability to create, signified by the side currently registering around 2.7 big chances per 90 minutes, this lack of conversion has undoubtedly been costly over their first three games.

When asked about his side's ability to kill off opposition and finish games following the draw against Western Sydney, Stanton cited the inexperience within his squad, reflecting on the team's youthfulness that needs further development in this area.

"As you accumulate knowledge and expertise, you learn how to manage games. We are a young team, so maybe the boys don't have that in their locker at the moment."

However, despite the slow start to the new season, Stanton remains confident he can unearth a winning mentality amongst his youthful Jets.

"Sometimes you learn hard lessons; they can be a good thing in the long run. In the short term, you suffer, we will suffer for that, but we will get better at that," the manager added.

Stanton will also have to make tough decisions regarding squad selection and possible personnel changes come the new year. Reno Piscopo is expected to return to the squad following the upcoming international break, with Archie Goodwin's timeline up in the air as he is still on the treatment table indefinitely.

Should Piscopo and Goodwin fail to return to full fitness in the coming weeks, Stanton may have to wait until Christmas, KordaMentha's expected timeline for selling the club, to refresh his squad. However, should this deadline not be met, the new manager may be forced into developing a clinician from within his current team.

Stamatelopoulos looked the most likely candidate with a brace on Sunday, and Clayton Taylor has shown early promise with his double against Victory in Round 2. Stanton may be lucky in his search through the players he has inherited. Whilst every Newcastle fan's ideal Christmas gift may be a set of new enthusiastic owners with deep pockets, this reality depends on KordaMentha finding the right people to take the club forward.



On the pitch, Stanton will hope a significant improvement in his squad's finishing manifests in the short term, as this crucial aspect will influence results. A tough away trip to Victoria and Western United will be followed by a home F3 Derby against the Central Coast Mariners after the international break. An immediate solution to the ownership crisis, now boosted by KordaMentha's recent takeover of the sale process, will undoubtedly help Stanton find his finisher and give a reason for all Novacastrians to return to the stands in numbers at McDonald Jones Stadium.

All statistics sourced from SofaScore.

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