Newcastle Jets put faith in young defenders against A-League rivals Brisbane Roar I photos, poll

Jets coach Mark Jones is backing Lachlan Jackson and Ivan Vujica to keep the Brisbane Roar at bay as part of one of the A-League’s youngest defensive outfits.

Jackson is likely to start at centre back at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday in the absence of the injured Daniel Mullen, joining fellow 21-year-old Nick Cowburn and 19-year-old left back Vujica in the back four with veteran skipper Nigel Boogaard.

Behind them is 23-year-old keeper Jack Duncan, who has played a total of nine first-team games at Perth Glory, the Jets and Danish club Randers FC.  

Their job will be to keep out a Roar attacking line-up featuring Socceroos Brett Holman, Jamie Maclaren and Tommy Oar.

Jones said he could move Ben Kantarovski into Mullen’s centre-back position but preferred to leave his midfield intact and give Jackson a chance to establish himself in the A-League.

“Kantarovski can play there, but Lachy Jackson is the one you’d like to think is a big, imposing lump,” he said.

“You’d like to think he can step up, because he gives us that extra height, that extra presence.

“He’s got a lovely left peg on him. He’s very comfortable on the ball. He’s one that I think can be a very good A-League footballer, and this is his opportunity.”

Jackson has filled in as a wide fullback in the past, including in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Adelaide when right back Jason Hoffman limped off in the 63rd minute and Cowburn vacated his position on the left.

Mullen went down with a knee injury nine minutes later, pushing Jackson into central defence and handing Vujica a 17-minute debut as the Jets’ third left back of the game.

Mullen could be out for up to 12 weeks, but the club has not decided whether to sign an injury replacement. 

Jones said Jackson had the pace to play out wide but was a better central defender, which could come in handy if the Jets changed formation.    

“I prefer to play him as a centre back,” he said. “You don’t see too many six-foot-five left backs flying up and down the wing. 

“He could do it, and he has done it, but I think he is a centre back, and as times goes by and we perhaps play with a five, then he’d be perfect as one of the three centre backs.”

If Jackson plays beside Boogaard, the captain will slide across to Mullen’s place at right stopper.

Jones said Sydney-born Vujica, who has played in Dinamo Zagreb’s youth team and for the Croatian under-19s, was impressive in his brief senior professional debut. 

“Little bit of a shuffle, but still a sound back four,” Jones said. 

“They’ve all played. Ivan was the one who’s probably played the least football in the A-League, but as you saw when he came on on the weekend, he was quite tidy. 

“If he can play 90 minutes like that, I’d be more than happy.

“He’s got some potential. He’s a 19-year-old and he’s played for his country. That’s a fair effort to play for Croatia at any level.”

Elsewhere, Jones appears set to name former Danish international Morten Nordstrand, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, as a straight swap for injured striker Aleksandr Kokko, which would leave Devante Clut on the bench.

Midfielder Mateo Poljak is likely to return from injury on the bench.

For Brisbane, Oar is expected to replace German star Thomas Broich at left wing and former Jets midfielder Jacob Pepper will start in place of captain Matt McKay, who was sent off in last week’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory.

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