AFTER three one-sided trials to open the pre-season, the Newcastle Jets have finally encountered a challenging opponent – themselves.
In a sometimes heated intraclub trial, the Jets youth team upset the first XI 2-1 at Hunter Valley Grammar School yesterday.
The speed of play, intensity of the pressing and ferocity in defence was a level above anything they had produced.
Ruben Zadkovich lashed out at Taylor Regan just before half-time and was ordered to the sideline to cool down. He was replaced by Jobe Wheelhouse in his first game back from surgery.
The greasy surface and narrow pitch exacerbated the tension. Players on the ball barely had time to look up and a defender was there to close them down.
‘‘With it being a nice tight track, it was good to see people get in people’s face,’’ coach Gary van Egmond said.
‘‘The decision making had to be a lot quicker.
‘‘It made it very competitive and it was exactly what we needed. We have to keep building on that level. It is good that the competition for places is hotting up at this stage of the pre-season, and that can only be good.’’
Swiss defender Dominik Ritter was outstanding in his first start for the club, Zadkovich was strong in his time on the pitch and keepers Ben Kennedy and Mark Birighitti made some fine saves.
Of the youngsters, Craig Goodwin made inroads down the left flank, James Virgili was dangerous playing on the left and scored a good goal, Adam Taggart was full of running, Mitch Cooper was a livewire in midfield and Mitch Oxborrow’s passing was a feature.
‘‘I expect the young ones to be really challenging,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘Young ones these days that come in expect to play. They are not there to make up the numbers or bide their time. That is a good thing. Again, from a competition basis, it puts older players on notice.’’
The first half in particular was fever pitch as both teams went at it, much to the delight of the few hundred school children looking on.
The goals, all in the first half, came from mistakes made by the defence under pressure.
Virgili swooped on a turnover by Connor Chapman dribbling out from defence to put the first XI up after 22 minutes.
The youth team, who were boosted by the inclusion of Regan, Marko Jesic, Josh Brillante, Goodwin and Birighitti, hit back 10 minutes later when Scott Neville clipped the heels of runaway Kale Bradberry inside the penalty area.
Jesic converted from the penalty spot before Andrew Hoole put the youth team ahead on the stroke of half-time after another turnover.
Tension boiled over five minutes from the break when Zadkovich shoved Regan in the back of the head after they were involved in a tangle near halfway. Van Egmond described the incident as ‘‘handbags at 10 yards’’ but admitted Zadkovich had to control his emotions.
‘‘It was just pride within themselves,’’ he said.
‘‘We had both teams here and our training sessions have always been nice and feisty.
‘‘You need to have conflict within your team. If you don’t have conflict and everything is running smoothly, it is a warning sign. It is good that we have that, but again we want that to be a little more controlled. There are positives and negatives for it.
‘‘In the end it was handbags at 10 yards, so no harm.’’
Van Egmond made a host of changes at half-time and by the hour mark both teams comprised mainly youth team and fringe players.
Taggart and Ritter were heavily involved as the first XI created numerous chances.
It was a frustrating day for ex-Scotland international and contract hopeful Mark Burchill, who had three clear chances but came up empty and was told he would not be signed.
The Jets still have two places available on their roster.
Their next hit-out is against Northern NSW Select at Jack McLaughlan Oval on August 8.