AAP Soccer

City need A-League steadier in the Hunter

By AAP Newswire

Riley McGree will return to Newcastle on Friday night for the first time as an opposition player since his famous 'scorpion kick' goal helped the Jets reach last year's A-Legaue grand final.

For McGree's Melbourne City, it's a crucial chance to get their wobbling season back on track.

Warren Joyce's City, who now boast the firepower of Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren and Tottenham loanee Shayon Harrison in their ranks, have just one win in their past six outings.

Opponents Newcastle are coming home with a wet sail, winning three of their past five matches including a mid-week Champions League clash.

With a gulf of eight points between the Jets and the top six, Ernie Merrick's side will be going hell for leather to make up the gap and Joyce knows it.

"If you look at their team ... at their best, it was the side that got to the grand final and coulda, shoulda won it really," he said.

"They're no mugs. Experienced, know their jobs.

"We expect a hard game, we're ready for that, we want to test ourselves in big games and we've got a few good games coming up."

Those big games include matches against the top three in successive weeks after their trip to the Hunter.

And you'd forgive Joyce from being a little nervous at key players walking a suspension tightrope.

Marquee Ritchie de Laet, captain Scott Jamieson and Harrison Delbridge are all one yellow card away from missing a match; Bart Schenkeveld, McGree, Nathaniel Atkinson and Rostyn Griffiths are two cautions away from a missed match.

Joyce said the goal was to nurse them though before the slate was wiped clean in four matches time.

"There's bound to be a little bit of disruption in the coming weeks because we've got people pending suspensions," he said.

While McGree hasn't returned to McDonald Jones Stadium since last year's grand final, City have played the Jets three times in Melbourne and won each match.

McGree opened the scoring in both league wins, and Joyce wants the 20-year-old to make it a trifecta - even if it's not as extravagant as his Puskas Award-nominated strike.

"The target obviously for him was double figures," he said.

"He'd settle for a goal whichever way it comes."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Newcastle are on their best home run in a year with two wins and a draw in their past three outings.

* City have lost their past three away matches and are goalless in their past two.

* The Jets have conceded more goals (5) from long-range this season than any other side while City boast a league-high seven goals from distance.