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Jan 12, 2008

Jets no longer happy with just top four

Newcastle wasted little time celebrating their ticket to the A-League finals before talk in the Jets' dressing room quickly shifted to a top two berth after their impressive win over Central Coast.

Little more than a week ago, Newcastle's position in the top four was in jeopardy.

Now they are not only finals certainties after back-to-back wins over Adelaide and the Mariners, but are also primed for a run at the championship and possibly even the minor premiership as well.

They beat the league-leading Mariners 2-1 in Gosford on Saturday, with coach Gary van Egmond making it clear his Jets - who host bottom club Perth in the final round - were no longer happy just being in the finals mix.

"If you really want to challenge (for the championship) you have to be in that top two," van Egmond said.

"There was real celebration (after the match), a bit of Powerade and water flying, a few chants going up.

"But we need to come back to earth ... and on Monday start again.

"It sets it up now against Perth.

"You win that last home game - which I know the guys are very motivated to do, they're even talking about it now (in the change rooms), winning in front of their home crowd - and 34 points will go very close to getting you in the top two."

Few tipped the Jets to launch a championship bid this campaign after losing several key players in the off-season, including 2006/07 league MVP Nick Carle and former Socceroos skipper Paul Okon.

Striker Joel Griffiths, though, has more than picked up the slack and shapes as possibly the most pivotal player in the finals series.

On Saturday, he slotted home his 11th goal of the season to secure the win and virtually guarantee the season's golden boot award.

One more against the Glory and he will break the record set by Melbourne marksman Danny Allsopp last season.

"Personally, I've taken a lot of responsibility on my shoulders this season to try and do the business and I feel like I've done that," Griffiths said.

"I just think we're starting to really jell as a team now, which is the perfect time to start playing some football."

Not only lethal in front of goal, Griffiths' ability to create has been just as vital to the Jets' success.

"If you've got the leading goalscorer in your team it's a massive bonus, but it's not only that he scores goals, he also makes so many assists as well," van Egmond said of Griffiths.

"Just by his work ethic and how he plays the game, he inspires the boys behind him.

"He's definitely improved as a player and he's definitely reaping the rewards for that in regards to his Australian team selection.

"And he's a winner and that's what you want in a team."

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