JETS goalkeeper Mark Birighitti had lingering doubts about his surgically repaired face leading into Sunday’s circuit-breaking 1-1 draw with Wellington.
But it took only one early bump to the nose courtesy of Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie – the man who created the doubt – to instil greater confidence in the gloveman.
Back in November when the Jets were defeated 3-0 by the Phoenix at Hunter Stadium, the 21-year-old Birighitti suffered a stray knee to the face from Brockie.
The impact of the knee fractured his eye socket and cheekbone and permanent metal plates were inserted.
Since returning ahead of schedule, Birighitti has said he quickly shrugged off the mental effects of the injury.
However, he admitted yesterday to the Newcastle Herald in the team’s Wellington hotel that doubt remained before kick-off at Westpac Stadium.
But he tackled the doubt head-on by blocking a runaway Brockie in the 18th minute, when the former Jet only had Birighitti to beat.
‘‘Brockie has something against my face and my head,’’ Birighitti said.
‘‘It was the second time I had to come out one-on-one and lucky enough he had the shot and it came off my nose and went out.
‘‘Whatever happened in the past with my cheekbone, that’s the past and I’ve forgotten about that and yesterday was a new game.
‘‘But I was a bit wary going into the game and a bit cautious.
‘‘That was the first real knock it’s got since my injury and it pulled up good and my confidence after that went to another level and it was a good result.’’
With that hurdle passed, Birighitti faces potentially a more problematic threat – Joel Griffiths.
The golden boy of Hunter Stadium will return for the first time on Saturday in the sky blue of Sydney FC to face the club he helped build and carry to their greatest ever moment, the 2007-08 A-League championship.
Despite being 33 now, the former Johnny Warren Medallist and golden boot winner is no less potent in front of goals.
In two matches back in the A-League, Griffiths has scored on both occasions and the odds of Griffiths adding three to his tally this Saturday are short.
No footballer has scored more goals in the A-League at Turton Road than Griffiths, with 13 goals in 27 appearances for the Jets.