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Jan, 13, 2008

Jets flying into A-League finals

Last week their finals hopes were still in the balance, but Newcastle suddenly find themselves entering the final round of the A-League with a realistic shot at the minor premiership.

In a dramatic climax to the regular season the Jets, Queensland, Central Coast and Sydney FC sit equal on 31 points at the top of the ladder and are all involved in separate matches this weekend.

Newcastle had been firmly entrenched in the battle for a top four spot with Adelaide and Melbourne until back to back wins, including Saturday's 2-1 triumph over Central Coast, sealed their spot.

They now have a chance to lay first claim to the minor premiership and an Asian Champions League berth in the opening match of the round against Perth on Friday night.

"If we do get a win, it can really put some pressure on the others," Jets coach Gary van Egmond said.

"But it works both ways, if we don't get the points it can alter the game plan of the others I suppose.

"We just want to control what's in our hands and our destiny and that's achieving three points.

"We've given ourselves an opportunity and results have gone our way but we've got to help ourselves now."

The Jets are likely to need a comfortable win against the Glory as they trail Queensland by three goals on for and against differential.

But the fact they are in with a chance at all is pleasing enough for van Egmond.

"You win a couple of games back to back in this competition and you get yourself right in the mix," van Egmond said.

"The boys have been magnificent this year ... they've had to play some real pressure games and they've come out trumps most of the time and I think that will put them in good stead with the finals run."

Also delighting van Egmond is the ongoing form of striker Joel Griffiths, who notched up his 11th goal of the season against the Mariners.

"We talk about many, many attributes he has, but the one underlying attribute is the fact he's a real winner," van Egmond said of Griffiths, who will attend Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek's second training camp in Sydney on Tuesday.

"It's really come out in his game this year.

"He's improved his game mentally and technically as well and he's reaping the rewards with representative honours."

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