Jets wingers praised but no promises

WINGMAN: Terry McFlynn, of Sydney FC and the Jets' James Virgilli clash in Saturday's game at Hunter Stadium. Picture RYAN OSLAND
WINGMAN: Terry McFlynn, of Sydney FC and the Jets' James Virgilli clash in Saturday's game at Hunter Stadium. Picture RYAN OSLAND

JETS coach Gary van Egmond says flying wingers James Virgili and Craig Goodwin are not yet permanent fixtures in his starting line-up despite playing influential roles in Saturday’s morale-boosting 2-1 win against Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium.

Virgili was the architect of both Newcastle goals, earning a free-kick in the 13th minute that Goodwin curved into the net from an acute angle, and then setting up Emile Heskey in the 26th minute by beating Sydney’s defence with pace and fancy footwork.

On the opposite flank, Goodwin again underlined his reputation as one of the A-League’s outstanding prospects with some classy touches to complement his spectacular opening goal – Newcastle’s first in 286minutes.

Virgili has played five of his 12 games this season off the bench and Goodwin has been used three times as a substitute in 11 games.

Van Egmond acknowledged that both tyros had virtually demanded retention for Newcastle’s next match, against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Friday night, but said it was important not to overburden young players.

‘‘People probably look at it and think how come you don’t play them every week,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got to ensure that mentally they’re OK as well.

‘‘They can get burnt out, some of these younger ones, so you just have to make sure you see the signs and balance that.

‘‘We’ve got other players who can come into those positions as well, so it puts us in good stead.

‘‘But right at this moment they deserve to play. As you can see, they’re very effective in their roles, so they’ve earned their spot.’’

Van Egmond described Virgili, 20, and Goodwin, 21, as a ‘‘work in progress’’ who were already causing opposing defenders headaches.

‘‘It’s lovely to see wide people taking on players and beating them and getting crosses in and really trying to set the central strikers up,’’ he said.

At the other end of the team sheet, van Egmond was pleased with Sam Gallaway’s first A-League appearance in 20 months.

The 20-year-old, who played five games under former coach Branko Culina, came in at left-back, prompting Dominik Ritter to switch to central defence in a new-look back four.

‘‘He gives us a lot of energy on that left-hand side,’’ van Egmond said of Gallaway.

‘‘The way we play, we definitely want to use our fullbacks and get them forward and create more doubts in the defence of the opposition.

‘‘We probably haven’t had a left fullback going forward as much as I’d like on the left-hand side. Dominik’s been playing well, but he got hampered by a quad strain which is still nagging him a little bit.

‘‘But as a central defender he does a very good job. He’s a good distributor of the ball.

‘‘So we put Sammy on the left and I think he did an excellent job.’’

The surprise return of goalkeeper Mark Birighitti from a cheekbone he fractured last month was another bonus for Newcastle, who ended a three-game losing streak and left Sydney languishing on the bottom  rung of the A-League ladder.

The win lifted the Jets back into the top six and to within three points of fourth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers.

Newcastle head to Melbourne on Thursday for back-to-back games at AAMI Park.

They play the Victory on Friday and then the Heart on Tuesday week, then return to host Adelaide on January 5 – a demanding schedule of three games in   eight days.


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