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Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick says Jets ready for big City test

READY TO GO: The Newcastle Jets train on Monday at Ray Watt Oval. Picture: Max Mason-HubersNEWCASTLE Jets coach Ernie Merrick will look to his improved midfield and better defence atset pieces to prove the difference against bogey team Melbourne City in the grand final qualifier on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
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City are the only side Newcastle have not beaten in their stunning rise from 2016-17wooden spooners to second place in the A-League under Merrick.

Newcastle went down 3-0 inround 25, in the middle of a three-game losing streak, and earlier drew 2-2 and lost 2-1 to third-placedCity, who qualified for Friday’s semi-final with a 2-0 victory over Brisbane on the weekend.

Despite the Jets’ troubles against Warren Joyce’s side, Merrick said taking on City “doesn’t change anything” in Newcastle’s preparations.

“We’ve really focused on ourselves in this preparation and getting forward intogoal-scoring positions, which I felt finally came together really well against the Mariners and I’m trying to reinforce that,” Merrick said, referring to Newcastle’s 8-2 hammering of Central Coast in the last round two weeks ago.

Despite the losing record to City, Merrick took heart from their first two encounters.

“It wasa couple of close games,” he said.

“I think one game their goalkeeper was man of the match, we dominated the first half and then didn’t do well the second half.

“Another game was a draw and the third game was three set pieces, two corner kicks and a free kick, sowe worked on those things and hopefully we’ve improved.

“I think we’ve played some really good games against them.

“We’ve looked at videos this morning and the numbers of chances we created.

“We’vecreated lots of chances [in the first game], so it’s about finishing and about having the full squad available and we’ve virtually got that now apart from Ben Kantarovski.

“But our midfield’s just beenoperating so much better now and we’ve got numbers forward and our defence is pretty well rock solid.”

Asked what he took out of City’s win over Brisbane, he said: “There’s no team that will make the semi-finals or even the elimination finals that’s not a good team.

“So every team we’re up against is going to be a real battle. It’s not going to be easy in any way, shape or form, and sometimes it will just come down to someone just doing that little bit extra and that’s what we’re looking for from the boys.

“We’ve looked at video, we know what we’re capable of and it’s about pulling it together for 95 minutes.”

A bumper crowd is expected for the match, especially after Northern NSW Football’s work to reschedule all local competition games set down for Friday night.

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