Western United returns home for the first time in the 2023/24 Isuzu UTE A-League Men season, taking on Newcastle Jets in Ballarat.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 4
Western United vs Newcastle Jets
Saturday, 11 November
Kick-off: 3:30pm AEDT
Mars Stadium, Ballarat
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
John Aloisi will bring an almost identical extended squad into this fixture compared to last week, with Jacob Tratt missing out and Jake Najdovski coming into the 20-man list.
Nikita Rukavytsya made his Western United debut last week and will be hoping to continue building his minutes in this clash.
Angus Thurgate and Daniel Penha will play against Newcastle as opposition players for the first time alongside fellow former Jets Ramy Najjarine and Connor O’Toole.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI
Last time out
Western United fell to a heartbreaking late defeat last week with an injury time goal seeing Macarthur FC take a 1-0 win.
Aloisi’s men controlled much of the second half and will have taken a great deal of confidence out of the game despite the result, now looking ahead to picking up three points against the Jets.
Traditionally, Newcastle have been one of Western United’s favourite opponents with the Green and Black coming into this fixture unbeaten in six matches against the Jets.
After failing to score in the first three meetings, United has failed to lose since with four wins and two draws in the subsequent six clashes.
Key Matchup: Tom Heward-Belle vs Apostolos Stamatelopoulos
Tom Heward-Belle has settled into life at Western United immediately, proving his talent as a No.1 goalkeeper and shining across the first three rounds.
A string of athletic saves have caught the eye in his first three matches for United, with his total of 17 stops currently the most of any goalkeeper in the league.
On the other side this weekend, former Western United man Apostolos Stamatelopoulos has found strong early-season form for Newcastle, scoring three goals in as many games including a brace in last week’s 2-2 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers.
His tenacity and ability will see him be a handful for United’s defence this weekend, and it could come down to Heward-Belle to continue bolstering his save count and keep Stamatelopoulos at bay.
Yet to keep a clean sheet in his new colours, Heward-Belle will be eager to do so this week and help his side secure an important win on home soil.
Player to Watch: Lachie Wales
Lachie Wales has found a habit of performing in Ballarat and United’s No.8 will be hoping to make that trend continue this weekend.
The dynamic forward scored a belter against the Jets at Mars Stadium last season and followed that up with a lovely assist for Noah Botic in a win against Perth Glory.
Added to that, Wales has already found the net this season with his silky finish in Round 1 against Melbourne City and he will be hungry for more to get the Green and Black on its way to victory.
Words from John Aloisi
On maintaining the course after two straight defeats
“Last game, the only disappointment was that we lost right at the end. We controlled the second half really well against Macarthur away from home, and when you lose the game before the way we did, that was a real positive.
“When you look at the three games, you take away one bad half of football against Wanderers in the first half, we’re looking that we can still build on the performances.”
On the prospect of three straight home matches in Ballarat
“It makes a difference. We’re not going there, and then not going back there for another two or three months – we’re going there three in a row.
“So we can make it like it’s our home, the feel of the place. The players get used to the drive down there and the surroundings. We’re going to treat it like it’s our home ground and we’re looking forward to these three games.
Words from the playing squad – Josh Risdon
On the atmosphere within the group despite a pair of difficult results
“To be honest, the vibe and the mood within the squad is still good. Those results don’t really reflect where we think we are as a squad, and there were a lot of positives to take out of those three games.”
On his role as captain in ensuring the group remains focused and united early in the season
“For us, the last two results weren’t for a lack of effort. We’ve stuck together as a group, remained positive and once the game is done, you focus on the next one.
“We make sure we start the training week off with good intensity, make sure everyone is up to standard and make sure to drive that standard.”