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Jan 25, 2008

Poor Jets record to motivate Mariners

Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna is using the Mariners' dismal record against Newcastle as motivation ahead of the first leg of the A-League major semi-final.

Minor premiers Central Coast have not beaten their NSW rivals for almost two years, but McKinna - despite admitting he would take a draw in the F3 derby - is confident his side can break that run of seven games in front of an expected sell-out crowd at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.

"It's actually a good stat, I like the stat because it means we're due to beat them," McKinna said.

"The last time we beat them was the (first leg of the minor) semi-final up there two years a go, so we're due a win.

"We went down 2-1 the last time we played but if (John) Aloisi's header goes in it could have changed the game quite remarkably.

"We're pretty upbeat and looking forward to breaking the drought because one thing about records are they have to be broken sometime.

"We hope it's going to be Sunday night.

"We'll be playing for a win but if we come away with the draw we'll believe we've done the job that we set out to do.

"If we come away with a draw we'd be very happy."

The Mariners are confident Socceroos star Aloisi will start the game despite being sidelined all week with a knee injury.

He trained for the first time on Saturday as both sides held their final training runs at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

Newcastle defender Adam Griffiths returns from suspension for the Jets, who will be making their third straight trip to the finals series after showing up the critics who predicted they would struggle in 2007/08 following the off-season departures of skipper Paul Okon, league MVP Nick Carle and strikers Milton Rodriguez and Vaughan Coveny.

Joel Griffiths, the league's leading goal scorer and hot favourite for the player of the year award, will again likely hold the key for a Jets victory after finding the back of the net 10 times in his last 13 games.

McKinna said pressure should be on the Jets to secure a win on their home turf before the return match at Bluetongue Stadium on February 10.

"They're at home, so they should be favourites," McKinna said.

"We're quite happy to go up there as underdogs ... I would say the onus would be on Newcastle to get at least a one-goal lead, and I'm sure that's what Gary (Jets coach Gary van Egmond) will be looking for as well."