A-League: Andrew Nabbout rising to the challenge up front for Newcastle Jets

IN TOUCH: Jets striker Andrew Nabbout works on his skills at training at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: Simone De PeakANDREW Nabbout believes the Newcastle Jets’ improved depth has been the “massive difference to what we had last year”.

And he reckons a club’s ability to havesubstitutes who can do as good a jobas the man they are replacing is “what really wins you championships”.

Nabbout wasn’t talking about himself ahead of Newcastle’s round 12 clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night (7.50pm), but he is proving a worthy example of how the theory might work.

The fill-instriker, who turned 25 last Sunday, has scored six goals, just one behind the A-League leaderswhich include injured teammate Roy O’Donovan (groin).

The winger has moved to the point of the attack since the loss of O’Donovan, who is set to be sidelinedfor another three months after missingfour of the past five games.

Nabbout’s form in O’Donovan’s absence has helped the Ernie Merrick-coached side keep hold of second place. They areon 23 points, four clear of Melbourne City and five behind Sydney heading into round 12.

For Nabbout, playing striker was “just another job for me to do” but one he was relishing.

“I’m happy to be there. I’m starting to get used to the roles –different runs, being patient – and I’m just trying to do it the best I can for the team until Roy’s back,” Nabbout said.

“I actually enjoy it, it gives me a little more freedom in the front third to make runs and I like it.”

Nabbout has made an A-League-leading 30 shots at goal this season for his six goals. The statistic speaks volumes about the high number of chances the Jets are creating,and Nabbout said he is doing all he can to score even more goals.

“Obviously you’ve got to be in the right spot at the right time and that’s what Roy’s so good at it and I’ve been trying to pick his brain a little bit about where to make runs and at what times and, to be fair, he’s been really helpful,” he said.

“I’m trying to get into that red zone, as Ernie calls it, but as long as you’re in that box when the ball comes in, you’re always a chance and that’s what Roy’s so good at. He’s a very good goal poacher and that’s why, even though he’s been out for a couple of weeks, he’s still on top of that goalscoring chart.

“I’m really enjoying it with the players behind me,” he added.

“Dimi [Petratos],he’s flying, and once we get Ronny [Vargas] and Roy back there it’s going to be even better.

“I’ve just got to do my job to convert those shots into goals and I’m getting there. I’m working on it.Like I said, I’m picking at Roy’s brainand [coaches] Clayton [Zane] and Labi’s [Haliti]brains as well because they’ve obviously been up there and they know what it’s like.

“I’mjusttrying to get all the information I can and try to produce it out on the pitch.”

The Jets, last season’s wooden spooners,meet the eighth-placed Wanderers, who had a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Central Coast following their derby thrashingto Sydney FC.

Nabbout said the win over the Mariners “just shows their character”.

“Not many teams would bounce back after a 5-0 loss, especially in a derby,” he said.

“To bounce back like that, it just shows they’re all behind [coach Josep] Gombau’s philosophy.

“This is our chance to really bring them back down to earth and we’re going to go out guns blazing from the get-go.I think we’ve started slow the last couple of games and we’ve still picked up results, so it shows even when we’re playing badly, we pickup results and when we play to our full potential it’s going to be very hard to stop us.

“These are the games you want to break away from the pack. We still want to catch Sydney, they are obviously flying at the moment and it’s our job to close that gap with them as well as keep the gap big between usand third.”

The Jets were expected to field an unchanged line-up.

With the injuries in attack this season, Nabbout said the Jets’ depth had come to the fore.

“That’s a massive difference to what we had last year,” he said.

“I think last year we didn’t really have much depth, whereas this year we have players like Joey Champness. He’s been thrown in the deep end, he’s only very young and he’s come in and done really well.

“To have boys like that to come in and do a job for us is essential. I think that’s what really wins you championships. I think that’s why Sydney have been so successful because they’ve got players that can come off the bench and do a job as good as the players who are on the park.”