Newcastle Jets: Ben Kantarovski says crowd support providing winning edge

HOMETOWN Jet Ben Kantarovski believes Newcastle supporters helped their 10-man team over the line against leaders Sydney FC 2-1 last Saturday.

TENSE MOMENT: Ben Kantarovski gestures to Sydney's Adrian Mierzejewski after they clashed on Saturday. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

TENSE MOMENT: Ben Kantarovski gestures to Sydney's Adrian Mierzejewski after they clashed on Saturday. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

And he is sure that increased crowd support, which led to an attendance of 18,156 at McDonald Jones Stadium, has “made a massive difference” across their whole season.

But it’s a following the Jets have earned with an attacking and successful style of football under coach Ernie Merrick that Kantarovski said the squad was focused on continuing.

Second-placed Newcastle do not play again until March 17, away to Wellington, in round 23 but the intensity in attack remained at training on Wednesday during small-sided games.

South Americans Ronny Vargas and Pato Rodriguez, who are due to return from injury against Wellington, featured prominently in a positive sign for the Jets, who have lost Andrew Nabbout (Urara Red Diamonds) and Roy O’Donovan (suspension) up front.

“I think the way we’ve been playing – upbeat, positive football, it’s come as no secret,” Kantarovski said.

“Ernie talks about it week in, week out. We’re here to entertain, so that’s what we strive to do every training session.

“I think you can see that in the way we play our football. That’s a credit to Ernie’s philosophy and the way he wants to play his football. I think we’re hard to break down in defence but we’re also there, not to play pretty football, but be attractive and bring in the crowds like we’ve been doing.”

Kantarovski, who has been with the Jets since 2008, agreed the win against Sydney was one of his most memorable moments at the club, especially as “home-grown Newcastle boy”.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “I think the atmosphere that the fans created for us probably pushed us over the edge in the end and got us through with the win, so it was an unbelievable feeling and to go out and get that sort of result in front of that sort of crowd.

“It just really showed where the team is at and how good we’re doing this season.”

Kantarovski played the second half against Sydney in his return from two matches out with a hamstring injury. He also missed rounds 14 to 16 but said he was ready for the run to the finals.

“I pulled up pretty well,” he said. “I think it was just making sure we got the injury right before the start of this finals period.

“So it was making sure that we could last for 90 minutes and making sure the rest of the body and the hamstring tear that I had was fully healed. 

“We’ve taken the right measures and precautions and that’s been taken care of now and I think it’s just a matter of trying to get out there and do our job each week.”

Of the crowd support this year, he said: “I think it’s made a massive difference. 

“I think you can see the support we’ve gained through the whole season, from the start of the year, and even in pre-season matches, we were getting good turnouts.

“The way that’s progressed during the season, I think that’s had a big impact on not just us but the whole town.

“There’s a lot of support coming from within the whole community, which is a credit to the club and the community really. They’ve both been working together to achieve the same thing.”

Asked if the Jets had the best depth now of his time at the club, he said: “We’ve had some great teams over the years, but I think this year it’s just that we’ve been winning and we’ve had some great success.

“It’s just a matter of making sure we can keep going with that and keep working.

“It hasn’t come by luck or accident, or even the depth, it’s the hard work that every player’s put in within this squad. I think that’s showed from the coaching staff all the way down to our kit man, Brent.

“It’s a matter of how hard we’ve worked to be where we are, and it’s a credit to everyone.”