GARY van Egmond may have fielded a back four with an average age of 20, but the Jets coach insists he selects teams on form rather than age.
‘‘It is not a case that it is a complete and utter youth policy that we are implementing here,’’ he said, after the Jets had produced their best defensive performance of the season on Saturday in a scoreless draw with Adelaide United.
‘‘It is about the best players for the given game or given week. If young ones deserve to play they will play; if older ones deserve to play, they will play.’’
The biggest cheer at Hunter Stadium came when veteran Michael Bridges replaced James Brown in the 63rd minute.
The former Leeds United striker appeared to have reached his use-by date – despite a need for his vision and ability to keep the ball and open up defences.
Before Saturday the 34-year-old had played a total of 45 minutes in five appearances and had not been sighted since 13minutes off the bench in a 2-0 loss to Central Coast on December 8.
‘‘Bridgey deserved to come in and, as you saw, he was very effective in what he did,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘From that perspective, he has done enough in my books to get another guernsey and maybe more time.
‘‘He hasn’t played for a long time but he did some really good things out there.’’
At the other end of the pitch, senior men Tiago Calvano and Josh Mitchell were overlooked for 18-year-old Connor Chapman and Taylor Regan, 24.
Craig Goodwin, 20, was dropped from midfield to left back. Fellow 20-year-old Sam Gallaway started at right back. Between them they had 66 A-League appearances.
‘‘The back four may have been together in a youth team game but I don’t know whether it has been together in a first-grade fixture,’’ van Egmond said.
Though lacking experience, the rookie defensive unit, combined with 21-year-old keeper Mark Birighitti, led the Jets to their first clean sheet of the campaign.
Van Egmond feels they did ‘‘extremely well’’.
‘‘The first 20 or 30minutes we were a bit too strung out and pressed a little too high at times.
‘‘Then all of a sudden we started to understand what the structure needed to be.
‘‘If you give the likes of Marcelo Carrusca and Dario Vidosic time on the ball, it is going to be a very difficult day for you.
‘‘We spoke about blocking passing lanes into Bruce [Djite]. The midfield pairing of Josh Brillante and Ruben Zadkovich did a good job in that area.’’
Adelaide coach John Kosmina was impressed with Regan in particular.
‘‘For a skinny kid he did a great job on Bruce, who is twice the size of him,’’ Kosmina said.
‘‘I think Bruce could get one leg into two of Taylor’s trouser legs.’’
The Perth-born gloveman made his A-League debut for Adelaide as a 17-year-old on October 17, 2008.
Although he has played only 18 A-League games, he was relieved to keep a nil scoreline for the first time – especially against his old club, since he’d had a horror debut against them in round one.
‘‘Even on Twitter and Facebook, people were asking me when am I going to keep a clean sheet,’’ Birighitti said.
‘‘It is good to finally get that out of the way and hopefully we can build on that. Full credit to the back four, they were fantastic.
‘‘We kept our shape and kept our structure and the result proved a point.
‘‘They had a few chances but they were saves you have to make.
‘‘They weren’t special saves, they were stock-standard.
‘‘The second half I was pretty quiet.’’