A-League: Topor-Stanley focused on Jets win rather than 250 milestone

NIKOLAI Topor-Stanley doesn’t pay too much attention to history and milestones. 

The only number of significance to the veteran defender is Newcastle’s position on the competition ladder.

Topor-Stanley will become the fourth player in the A-League to reach 250 games when he lines up against Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night. Danny Vukovic (278) has the most caps followed by Andrew Durante (267) and Eugene Galekovic (261).

“It is nice but it will mean nothing without the win,” Topor-Stanley said about the milestone. “Those are the compliments I’m looking for, and to put some light between us and the rest of the table and close the gap on Sydney.”

Leaders Sydney sit eight points clear of the Jets and are fresh from a 6-0 demolition of Perth Glory at home. 

“There is no mistaking Sydney have a solid group of players, a championship side and they have added quality to that as well,” Topor-Stanley said. “They are a handful for anyone. We go down there with no fear. We are second and have played some great football. There hasn’t be a game where we haven’t scored. We will give them a run for their money.”

Topor-Stanley is in his second stint with Newcastle. He played 81 games over three seasons from 2009-10 and was the player-of-the-year in his second campaign.

However, the 32-year-old readily admits that he is far more mature and streetwise second time around.

Four years under Tony Popovic at Western Sydney, where he captained the club to an Asian Champions League title and was player of the year in 2014-15, gave him a new outlook on professionalism.

Topor-Stanley and fellow veteran Nigel Boogaard have been instrumental in transforming a Jets defence which leaked a league-worst 53 goals last season.

It’s little surprise coach Ernie Merrick has given Topor-Stanley the captain’s armband in the absence of Boogaard (concussion) on Wednesday.

“It is an honour to captain any team,” Topor-Stanley said. “I always try to lead. It is my job to organise.”

Topor-Stanley will be partnered by Lachlan Jackson in a reworked back four. Daniel Georgievski returns from a knee injury at left back in place of suspended Ivan Vujica.

Right back Johnny Koutroumbis has been hampered by a hip issue but trained Tuesday and is set to play, however Ban Kantarovski (back) appears unlikely to be fit.

Jackson, 22, has 42 A-League appearances, split between left back and stopper, but has only played 50 minutes in four cameos off the bench this season.

“Boogs will be a loss,” Topor-Stanley said. “He is our leader and an experienced campaigner. It is an opportunity for someone to come in and do a job. So far when someone has gone down, the young players have stepped up and done that.”

Sydney boast an all-import  front three of Bobo, Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski. 

Bobo has scored hat-tricks in the past two wins. Mierzejewski has netted five goals in four games and Ninkovic is the reigning A-League player of the year. 

“You have to keep your discipline and not switch off,” Topor-Stanley said. “They are ruthless when you give them an opportunity to hurt you.”

Bobo (fifth minute) and Ninkovic (59th) both hit the target in a 2-1 win at Allianz Stadium in round seven in which the Jets finished the stronger and went close to snatching an equaliser.

“Last time we played them, we were a bit too timid in the first half. We came back and really put them on the back foot in their back yard. We are looking to start like that. They have a huge array pf attacking weapons but so do we.”