JETS marquee striker Emile Heskey will have scans today on a quadriceps injury and is in extreme doubt for the crucial clash against the Brisbane Roar at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
The former England international was forced off at half-time during the scoreless draw against Adelaide United, his 15th straight appearance.
‘‘Early in the first half my thigh felt tight and, while it didn’t get worse, I could still feel it there,’’ Heskey said. ‘‘It was one of those ones where you have to decide to come out or carry on and see if you can make it through the match.
‘‘I thought it was best to pull out in case I made it worse. Hopefully it will be OK.’’
Jets coach Gary van Egmond said the early diagnosis was a grade-one strain, which normally constitutes one to three weeks on the sideline.
Heskey’s agent Struan Marshall is due in Newcastle this month for contract talks.
The former England front man, who is on $700,000 a season, has been a revelation since arriving from English Premier League club Aston Villa. He is their leading goal-scorer with seven and, despite turning 35 on Friday, had played the second-most minutes, behind Ruben Zadkovich.
The imposing target man had formed a dangerous combination with James Virgili before his departure.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for the Jets, who have slipped to eighth place and, after the Roar, face road trips to leaders Central Coast and bogey team Wellington Phoenix.
Emerging Socceroo Adam Taggart replaced Heskey against Adelaide and is almost certain to get the nod on Saturday. The 20-year-old, who scored a brace for the Socceroos against Chinese Taipei at the East Asia Cup last month, was denied a match-winner by a brilliant save by Eugene Galekovic.
‘‘It was great to see Adam come in and do well,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘He created a number of chances for himself and others.
‘‘It was a really good save by Eugene with his feet.
‘‘Taggs did everything right.
‘‘It is obviously difficult for him because you have someone like Emile, who is a real target man and such a good player.
‘‘He will get better, more and more experience, more and more games and he will definitely keep developing.’’
After absorbing pressure early, the Jets finished the first half the stronger.
Ryan Griffiths had a shot finger-tipped over the bar and another blocked by Galekovic, while James Brown had a couple of half chances.
The loss of Heskey could have been a body blow for a Jets outfit low on confidence but they didn’t miss a beat. They created numerous chances but could not find a winner.
‘‘There is a lot of belief in the team,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘I told them if they kept to the structure we would be fine. That is exactly what we did. They knew what we needed to do in regards to defensive positioning and their job. It has never been an issue for us to create opportunities. It has been the other side.’’
Van Egmond started Virgili on the left and Griffiths on the right but switched them midway through the first half to good effect. Virgili continually burned past Adelaide veteran left back Cassio and Griffiths also had success without the end product.
‘‘Initially it was more from Ryan’s point of view more than James,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘He can come in and from crosses, he is going to finish a lot better with his left than right. That can happen more naturally when you put the lefty on the right and the righty on the left.
‘‘But we felt especially towards the end of the first half that it was a good test for Cassio, with young Virgili running at him.
‘‘We were a bit stiff not to get something from it but there were good positive signs from both him and Ryan.’’