The Newcastle Jets' finals chances hinge on a win against league leaders Western Sydney, and they will be bolstered by a squad void of injury and suspension
|By MARK HUGHES
The Newcastle Jets have announced a full-strength squad - including marquee man Emile Heskey - for their do-or-die encounter with A-League leaders the Western Sydney Wanderers at Hunter Stadium on Friday.
Heskey has been named in Newcastle's 18-man squad after sitting out the last three games with a calf injury and will join other key players Ruben Zadkovich, Adam Taggart and Zenon Caravella, who have all overcome niggling injuries.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond welcomed back Heskey to the side but said every player was crucial if the Newcastle side was to overcome the table-topping Wanderers outfit.
The Jets lie in eighth on the table, one point and goal difference out of the finals places. They know that even a win might not be good enough to get them into the top six.
"It will be good to have Emile and Bridgey [Michael Bridges] linking up again, not only from the point of view of those two trying to combine, but the other players that they bring into play as well," van Egmond said at the team announcement on Wednesday.
"But I think everyone has to step up and everyone will play a part. There will be times where each individual will have their own moment and there is going to be big moments within the game that is going to decide it.
"Admittedly the experienced players help the confidence when a situation arises to ensure that it's a positive outcome. But again every single player is going to be important for us come Friday.
The Wanderers, who will be without marquee Shinji Ono and suspended defender Iacopo La Rocca, need a point to claim the Premiers' Plate.
Despite the need for three points, van Egmond said his side has to be wary of play attack-minded football on Friday night.
"You have to be sensible in your approach," he said.
"Wanderers are very good at counter-attack football. Particularly [Youssouf] Hersi and Bridgey [Mark Bridge] - they get into good areas and they can really hurt you.
"So we have to be vigilant in that respect and that when we attack our rest defence is spot on.
"Most games they play counter attack football recently there was an article that they have the least amount of possession but they do a lot with the possession that they have.
"They really do hurt you on the counter and are extremely effective at it, so it is very important for us to get that right on Friday."
The Wanderers side will feature six ex-Jets including Ante Covic, Mark Bridge, Labinot Haliti, Tarek Elrich, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Adam D'Apuzzo but he denied that he would have any inside knowledge that would help his side orchestra a win on Friday.
"There is some boys who used to play here and I am sure they are focused on their team to try to win the Plate as we are to try to win the game and give ourselves the best chance possible to get into the top six.
"We know those players quite well from a performance base and mentally as well but they are playing for the Wanderers and you don't know what sort of instructions they are going to get from the coaching staff.
"We feel we have a good understanding of how they are looking to play. Whether they are Wanderers players or ex-Jets they will be very committed.
Despite the enormity of the task on Friday night van Egmond said he was confident of his team's chances.
"I think the football we have been playing has been great but it is important that we take our chances when they come along.
"For us we have to focus on the performance, we really have to perform.
If we continue doing what I have been doing I think we are a real good chance of winning the game."
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