EMILY Van Egmond is happy to play anywhere in midfield, but Jets coach Craig Deans will be happier to see more of the Matildas star at the attacking end in the blockbuster against Perth on Saturday night.
Newcastle rose to a three-way tie and second place on goals difference with a 3-0 win away over Brisbane on Sunday, setting up the top-of-the-table clash with Glory at McDonald Jones Stadium from 8.15pm.
Deans paired Clare Wheeler and Tori Huster in central midfield and pushed Van Egmond, who returned to the side from Matildas duties, forward.
The move paid dividends as Van Egmond put Arin Gilliland away on goals for the second and third goals of her hat-trick. Deans said the form and hard work of homegrown Young Matilda Wheeler had paved the way for the change.
“We can play Em further forward now because Clare Wheeler has come in with Tori, and they’ve been really good the last three games they’ve played together,” Deans said. “It takes a bit of defensive pressure off Em and she can get further forward.
“Em is calm on the ball and she can obviously pass the ball well. She can strike a ball and she’s got some creativity, so having Clare come in has made a big difference.
“It also means Gilly can play as a winger, and she’s dangerous up there.”
Van Egmond played through a back complaint against Roar and was rested for the final half an hour with the Jets up 3-0. She was glad just to contribute to the win.
“It was the first game where I’ve played more as an attacking midfielder and I’m just happy to play wherever Deansy wants me to play,” Van Egmond said. “I like all positions in the midfield, and I was lucky enough to find Gilly a couple of times off really nice forward runs and we capitalised in transitions, which was very pleasing.
“We’re starting to get familiar with each other and it’s just good competitiveness within the squad. Clare’s come in and done a fantastic job, and I thought she did a really good job on the weekend, as did Tori.”
For Deans, the attacking success in round seven brought welcomed selection headaches for the second half of the season.
“Cortnee Vine missed out on the weekend but she’s been playing well,” Deans said. “It’s nice to have a situation where you’re leaving good players on the bench. Tara Andrews didn’t travel with the squad so we’ve got her to hopefully come in. It’s nice to have some depth in the attacking area.”
The Perth clash brings with it the added challenge of stopping superstar striker Sam Kerr, one of Van Egmond’s best friends.
“Sammy’s obviously a great player, not just in the W-League, but on the world stage,” Van Egmond said. “She’s definitely a threat, but I think if we can minimise the space in behind for her to make those forward runs, I think that’s definitely going to be the key.”
Returning Matilda Gema Simon is likely to miss another week of action for Newcastle in her recovery from a knee injury.
Defender Natasha Prior is nursing a knee injury but is expected to be available.