Football 3 years ago

Depleted Jets hold no fear against Victory

  • Depleted Jets hold no fear against Victory

They're a small-time club missing some big players, but Newcastle say fear won't be a factor when they host A-League champions Melbourne Victory.

The Jets have endured a challenging start to the season, with a gritty 2-1 win away in Wellington followed by a controversial 1-0 loss to Sydney FC, cruelled by goalkeeper Mark Birighitti's gruesome facial injuries dealt by the boot of Shane Smeltz.

Despite training with 40 stitches, Birighitti won't play against Victory at Hunter Stadium on Friday night, with coach Scott Miller choosing to call up Ben Kennedy rather than risk his first-choice gloveman's welfare.

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To top off a trying week, flashy forward Labinot Haliti will sit out the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for an ACL injury, while left-back Lee Ki-je and Andy Brennan will be other absentees in a side with only 21 players on the roster.

Coach Scott Miller admitted it's been a task keeping his squad in the right mental space as they continue to rebuild, though he backed their bravery and desire to step up to the league's best sides.

"It's a challenge, but a player at this level wants to play the best teams," Miller said.

"There can't be a fear of playing the top teams; it has to be an opportunity to prove a point against the top players.

"From what I understand of Melbourne Victory, they've found it difficult coming to Hunter Stadium as well.

"That can't be our sole motivation in our preparations, but we're here to challenge any team.

"Wellington away or Melbourne Victory at home, our mentality has to be the same."

Miller said he was always aware of the depth issue and saw it as his role to develop less-experienced players, especially without Haliti's versatility up front.

One of those in contention is young defender Lachlan Jackson, with the coach saying he was pleased with the 20-year-old's new maturity and identifying him as an option as cover for Lee at left-back.

It would allow David Carney to play further forward in support of Serbian striker Milos Trifunovic, while the team will also benefit from the return of captain Nigel Boogaard from suspension.

"The depth of the squad has to step up now and it's their opportunity," Miller said.

"They've been knocking on the door all pre-season demanding a game, and now it's their chance to prove a point."

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