Heskey struggles to make impression in debut game

The 14,868 fans at Hunter Stadium wanted a goal, or at least a sterling performance, from English marquee man Emile Heskey.

But after their first look at the former English Premier League star, many would have left Turton Road dissatisfied.

Heskey played at the point of the Newcastle Jets attack and during the first half struggled to get involved as his teammates provided him with little quality service. The veteran striker looked strong and reasonably fit, occasionally muscling away defenders to get the ball and lasting 25 minutes longer on the pitch than coach Gary van Egmond had intended.

Van Egmond said it would take time for the other  players to learn how to best use the former Liverpool man.

‘‘I thought his contribution was great,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘He’s a real target man up front. You see a number of times where people can look to play the ball in and look to run off him, and we need to get better at that.

‘‘Not only in a position of where the ball is going into him and the same person is getting the ball back, but the third man running, and the next person running into space as well.’’

Heskey had only one sight of goal, a half-chance in the 49th minute when right back Scott Neville dinked a cross into the box and the Englishman could not get  enough on a glancing header  to trouble the keeper.

 Heskey arrived  only 10 days ago and was always going to lack match fitness.

He was replaced in the 70th minute by Newcastle product James Virgili, who immediately fired two  shots at goal.

‘‘He was wanting to stay out there for 95 minutes, but we have to be a little bit careful with him and we probably went over a bit today,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘He’ll have recovery now, a massage and a day off and back on the training paddock.

‘‘I was looking for half a game, to be honest with you, but he has such a will to play.’’ Van Egmond worked hard in the pre-season overhauling his squad and bringing in a host of younger, faster players to play a high-tempo, possession-based game.

He said he had not changed his philosophy after the arrival of 34-year-old Heskey, a traditional target man.

‘‘He’s enhanced our game plan, if anything,’’ van Egmond said.

 Adelaide coach John Kosmina was impressed with Heskey and said his potency was minimised   his central defenders Antony Golec and Newcastle-bred Nigel Boogaard.

‘‘I thought Antony Golec, in particular, did a real good job on Heskey,’’ Kosmina said.

‘‘Boogs did well and competed physically and didn’t give him too much room.’’

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