LONG WAIT: Joel Griffiths has not played in an F3 derby since 2008. Picture: Simone De PeakJETS striker Joel Griffiths faces a final fitness test today but is set to play in his first F3 derby in more than five years at Gosford tomorrow night.
Griffiths was a last-minute withdrawal before last week’s win against Melbourne Heart after aggravating a rib injury in the warm-up.
Scans have cleared the 34-year-old of structural damage and he was reported to have trained well yesterday.
If he can get through a final ball-work session this morning without any setbacks, it is expected Jets coach Clayton Zane will reinstate Griffiths to his starting side for the crucial clash with Central Coast, the reigning champions.
Craig Goodwin would be the likely candidate to drop back to the bench.
Griffiths last played in a derby against Newcastle’s traditional rivals on Boxing Day, 2008, scoring from a penalty in the 2-1 loss at home.
His most recent appearance at Bluetongue Stadium was in October, 2008, when the Jets lost 1-0.
Since rejoining Newcastle in January, after five years playing in China and a brief stint with Sydney, Griffiths has played in three games, in stints of 27, 29 and 70 minutes.
His combination up front with English veteran Emile Heskey and Adam Taggart in the 2-0 win against Western Sydney two weeks ago suggested the Jets were still very much alive in the race for the playoffs.
With five rounds remaining, they are one point behind the sixth-placed Mariners and could climb as high as fourth tomorrow if they rack up their third successive win.
Gosford, however, has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Newcastle.
They were beaten 3-0 there on January 25 and have won only once in 13 visits to the Mariners’ fortress, in January, 2008, when Griffiths scored the winner in a 2-1 victory, just six weeks before Newcastle beat their arch enemies in the A-League grand final.
Jets squad: Mark Birighitti (gk), Kew Jaliens, Ben Kantarovski, Zenon Caravella, Andrew Hoole, Ruben Zadkovich (c), Emile Heskey, Craig Goodwin, Joey Gibbs, Josh Mitchell, Josh Brillante, James Virgili, Sam Gallaway, Ben Kennedy (gk), Adam Taggart, David Carney, Mitch Oxborrow, Joel Griffiths.