Birighitti to make amends

JETS keeper Mark Birighitti insists he will not make the same mistake after admitting he played the season opener against Adelaide United ‘‘three or four times in his mind’’ before kick-off.

The Jets take on the high-flying Reds in a crucial clash at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

Birighitti had a night to forget in the 2-0 loss to his former club in round one.

Having left the Reds for an opportunity to play regularly, he made a horror start to life as a Jet, producing an unconvincing display that culminated in a red card in the 57th minute.

‘‘[Coach] Gary [van Egmond] made a good point about round one,’’ Birighitti said on Wednesday.

‘‘I did play the game three or four times in my mind. I was focused that much, come the game I was nervous. Since then I think I have had a solid season so far and hopefully I can put in another shift and get one back on them.’’

Any chance the 21-year-old shotstopper had of flying under the radar in the lead-up to Saturday, the first of two straight home games the Jets need to win to get their season back on track, ended when he was at the centre of a contentious decision to award Melbourne Heart a match-winning penalty in the 2-1 loss at AAMI Park on New Year’s Day.

Birighitti lost the ball after he rushed off  his line to claim a flick on from Josip Tadic and collided with Heart defender Patrick Gerhardt.

As the keeper fell to the ground he grabbed at the foot of Jonatan Germano, who had  pounced on the loose ball. 

As well as awarding a penalty, referee Chris Beath issued the keeper with a  yellow card.

The decision infuriated  van Egmond, who exchanged words with the referee in the tunnel at half-time.

‘‘From a corner, for example, you can’t go near a goalkeeper. You cannot even block their passage or stand and hold your ground,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘Biris has come out and has the ball, and he doesn’t lose it because there is noone there. There was a collision.’’

Fox Sports reported that when van Egmond questioned the referee as they walked off at half-time, Beath said: ‘‘You are kidding, aren’t you? He dropped it cold.’’

The Heart loss was Birighitti’s third match back from a fractured cheekbone he suffered in a sickening collision with Wellington striker Jeremy Brockie in round seven.

He had surgery to insert a metal plate in his face and was initially scheduled to return this round.

‘‘I feel confident. Mentally I feel good,’’ Birighitti said.

‘‘I was supposed to come back this week. To come back the way I did against Sydney [a 2-1 win a fortnight ago], I was very happy with my progress and the way it went.

‘‘Diving at people’s feet is part of my job. I am not going to let that get to me.

‘‘As I have said before, if I save the ball with my feet, my hands or my head, at the end of the day it is my job to keep the ball out of the net.’’

The Heart’s brace was the ninth time this campaign the Jets have conceded two goals or more.

Their last clean sheet was a 1-0 win over Adelaide at home in round 23 last season.  Ben Kennedy was in goals for the Jets that night.

‘‘It is frustrating,’’ Birighitti said. ‘‘We bring it up at training and in games. Little mistakes are costing us at the moment.

‘‘The good thing is that we have a short turnaround. Adelaide on Saturday, and hopefully we can get three points there and get the season back on track.’’

Van Egmond is almost at a loss to explain the Jets’ continuing defensive deficiencies.

He is likely to make at least one change to the back four for Adelaide after Scot Neville aggravated a hamstring strain.

Neville had come in for Dominik Ritter, who has a similar problem.

If both are ruled out, Josh Brillante is likely to drop from midfield to cover at left back, which would accommodate the expected return of captain Jobe Wheelhouse.

Out of favour pair Taylor Regan and Brazilian Tiago could also come into consideration in a reshuffled back line.

‘‘Hopefully we get more troops back,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘We will check on Jobe Wheelhouse and a few others.

‘‘We have two games at home and our home record is pretty good.  You just have to keep believing in what we are doing.’’

Mark Birighitti in action. Picture: Ryan Osland

Mark Birighitti in action. Picture: Ryan Osland


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