In-form Jets get timely break

05 February 2018 06:44:13 EST

Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick has rewarded his players with a break after they beat last year's beaten Grand Finalists Melbourne Victory.

The Jets are close to securing a Finals Series spot for the first time since 2011, having won 11 of their 19 games.

It is 10 years since Newcastle won their only A-League title, and the club had finished bottom of the table in two of the previous three seasons before the Scotland-born coach took over.

Merrick was delighted with the performance against his former team, who he coached to two championships.

And as they have a 12-day break until their next game away to Western Sydney Wanderers, the coach has given most of his players four days off to be able to recharge mentally.

"I don't want mental fatigue [for the season run-in], I want them fresh," said Merrick. "The best time to have a break is when you have just won a match against another quality side.

"Had you lost that match, the break isn't as effective, but the boys will away pretty happy."

Newcastle closed the gap to nine points behind leaders and defending champions Sydney FC.

They now have an 18-point cushion inside the top six and that lead is effectively 19 points as seventh-placed Brisbane's goal difference is 27 worse than the Jets.

Their main priority, given that Sydney FC are almost uncatchable, will be to secure second spot in the table which would give them a place in the qualifying round of next year's Asian Champions League.

Newcastle are four points ahead of third-placed Melbourne City after Warren Joyce's side beat Brisbane on Sunday.

Against Victory, Merrick welcomed back Irishman Roy O'Donovan after nine weeks out with injury.

O'Donovan, who netted seven goals in his first eight games for the club, will soon link up with former Venezuela international Ronny Vargas when he recovers from his own injury.

Newcastle are 5/1 to win the Grand Final and 17/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 6/4 with the draw 12/5.

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