NEWCASTLE Jets coach Gary van Egmond admits his team have been too reliant on marquee signing Emile Heskey and need to be more creative with the ball in tonight's A-League showdown with Melbourne Victory at Hunter Stadium.
Heskey has earned rave reviews after scoring goals in Newcastle's victories over Sydney and Central Coast.
But van Egmond was insistent during the pre-season that the Jets would produce an up-tempo, possession-based playing style.
Judging by his comments at a press conference this week, he does not want to abandon that game plan just to accommodate a world-class target man.
"With Emile getting here later, they've tended to look at that as an outlet a little bit too soon," van Egmond said.
"We haven't got that balance right as such. We're not going to become a team that's just looking to play direct and play off that second ball.
"We are going to play direct at times, but it's going to be calculated when we play direct. It's going to be a case that we look to control the game through our ball circulation."
Van Egmond has named an 18-man squad, with three players to be omitted before kick-off tonight, but his biggest quandary appears to be who will play right back in the absence of injured Scott Neville.
Dudley-Redhead junior Taylor Regan deputised last week, although van Egmond indicated former Gold Coast teenager Josh Brillante would be his preference tonight.
Brillante, one of five Jets named this week in the Young Socceroos, made his Newcastle debut last week with 20 minutes off the bench in the F3 derby victory, and Van Egmond said Brillante probably offered a little bit more than Taylor, who was more accustomed to a central-defensive role.
"Taylor can do a decent job as a fullback but I wouldn't call him a specialist fullback," he said.
"He can play there but obviously he's more comfortable as a centre-back.
"We just have to weigh that up, where they're going to be best suited."
Van Egmond said 19-year-old Brillante had created a big impression since moving to Newcastle.
"He can obviously play as a fullback, as we stated, but he can also play as a holding midfielder as well," he said.
"Really good kid, really good attitude, technically proficient, good passer of the ball, real competitor. He's fitted in really well here."
Another option van Egmond is pondering is switching Ruben Zadkovich from midfield to right back, allowing Ben Kantarovski to rejoin the starting side.
Veteran Michael Bridges and Brazilian import Bernardo Ribeiro, who were spectators last weekend, have both been named in the 18, although van Egmond was non-committal about their prospects of receiving any game time.
Victory secured their first win last week under new coach Ange Postecoglu, 2-1 against Adelaide, which will have lifted self-belief after a 5-0 drubbing from Brisbane.
Van Egmond has identified Victory midfielder Mark Milligan, who played 11 games for the Jets four years ago, as their linchpin and said "we have to try and do a job on shutting him".
● Crack goalkeeper Michael Theo has declared Brisbane's defence stronger than ever this season, sounding a warning to Western Sydney who'll be looking to score their maiden A-League goal when they face the Roar tomorrow.
The Wanderers are also still searching for a breakthrough win. But with the Roar's strong home record, an upset victory is a big ask for Tony Popovic's men.
"They've played well in all three game but the result hasn't gone their way," Theo said.
"Suncorp is a great stadium, a great pitch and I'm sure opposition teams dread coming here.
"Defensively I think we're a lot more solid this season and we know we're always good for a goal or two a game."