Man of the moment Kennedy keeping focused on next goal

BEN Kennedy was glad to have "shut up" a few of his critics but the much-maligned Jets goalkeeper was not content with his man-of-the-match performance in the epic win over Gold Coast United.

Kennedy went from zero to hero, producing the game of his life to almost single-handedly knock the Gold Coast out of the competition at Skilled Park on Saturday night and end their hopes of a championship in their first season.

After making a string of spectacular saves, including three in extra-time, Kennedy's crowning moment came in the penalty shoot-out.

With the Jets holding a 6-5 advantage, he dived full stretch to his left and flung up a strong right hand to block a sweetly timed drive by Zenon Caravella.

Kennedy, the target of much criticism since being elevated to the top spot after the departure of Ante Covic, hoped he had silenced some of the doubters.

"I haven't listened to the media and don't buy the papers," he said.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I tried not to listen to it.

"I didn't think I was doing too bad, to be honest.

"Tonight was good for the confidence, and it is always nice to shut people up in a way.

"But I know I have to back it up with another good performance."

On any other night Gold Coast gun striker Shane Smeltz could, and probably should, have scored a hat-trick.

But it seemed no matter what the two-time Golden Boot winner did, he couldn't beat Kennedy.

"Every game Smeltz plays he is always a threat, and tonight was no different," a satisfied Kennedy said after the match.

"Luckily enough, I came out on top tonight.

"I was just glad I could do my bit for the team.

"It didn't matter if it was Smeltz or anyone else.

"I was confident and it felt like nothing was going to go in."

Kennedy had lost his place in the starting side to Neil Young but returned after the West Australian suffered a badly broken nose in the 2-0 loss to Gold Coast in round 22.

While Kennedy was lapping up the praise last night, Young was laid up in hospital in Newcastle.

Following treatment for his fractured nose, the 31-year-old gloveman has suffered several severe medical complications and has just undergone his third surgery.

"I just hope everything is right with Neil," Jets coach Branko Culina said.

"You do not want to see anyone, especially someone in your team, go through what he is going through.

"I don't think people realise how serious it is."

Jets goalkeeping coach Clint Gosling, who has guided Kennedy for more than a decade, said much of the criticism levelled at the gloveman was unfair.

"I thought it was harsh last week when he got injured and the Squadron [supporter group] started cheering," Gosling said.

"That was out of order. I felt sorry for him.

"This week he rebounded well. Now he just has to back it up and he is on his way.

"The last couple of weeks we have been working on a few things, a bit more speed, and it has paid off."

Keen for Kennedy to remain focused, Culina placed a media ban on him yesterday.

"I'm delighted for Ben, but let's let his football do the talking for now," he said.

James Gardiner

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