Hutcho says Mariners are better than Jets
He's the man Newcastle fans love to hate and Central Coast captain John Hutchinson can expect another heated reception in Saturday's F3 derby after declaring the Mariners are simply the better A-League side.
The Mariners are undefeated and have yet to concede a goal in their opening two matches, but remain slight outsiders against a Jets side fresh from an upset 3-2 win away to Sydney FC.
And while Hutchinson respects the Jets he says the Mariners will prevail if they muscle up early and avoid getting caught up in the derby emotion at Hunter Stadium.
"We know they're going to be pumped up for the game," Hutchinson said on Friday.
"They've come off a great win over Sydney but we've just got to be up for it.
"It's going to be a bit of a battle at the start if we can win the battle at the start and play football, we know we're a better football team and should get the points.
"... We believe that we're a superior football team."
Hutchinson, a veteran of 20 F3 derbies, is used to copping plenty of flak from Jets fans and welcomed the "bubbling" rivalry between the NSW neighbours.
He has good reason to be confident with the Mariners asserting themselves as competition heavyweights in recent season and they have a strong recent record in F3 derbies, winning three and drawing one of the past five.
However the midfielder stressed Central Coast would not underestimate a Jets team featuring English star Emile Heskey, who looks to be improving with every run for his new club.
"I thought they were really good (against Sydney). We've got a good game plan for them this week that we need to stick by and if we don't we'll get punished because they've got some good players," Hutchinson said.
While the Mariners' renowned stingy defence is yet to concede a goal in two games, Jets coach Gary van Egmond was confident the strike partnership of Heskey and Ryan Griffiths would cause plenty of headaches.
Young gun Trent Sainsbury has shone in the Mariners' backline so far this season having come in to replace departed captain Alex Wilkinson and faces one of the biggest challenges of his career against Premier League veteran Heskey.
The Mariners welcome back New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey from international duty while the Jets have injury concerns over goalkeeper Ben Kennedy (knee) and defender Scott Neville (groin).