Wheelhouse keen for more time in derby

JOBE Wheelhouse is ready to lead the Jets against arch enemies Central Coast at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday but understands that coach Gary van Egmond may not agree.

Wheelhouse played 30 minutes off the bench in the 1-0 win over the Brisbane Roar after missing six games with a knee injury.

"I came on when the sting was gone from the game, but I felt quite good in the legs," Wheelhouse told the Herald yesterday.

"The knee feels really good. We had a really hard session today and I got through it fine.

"I have been training with the team for two weeks now. I'd like to play more minutes this week. If not this week, next week.

"That is up to the coach."

Teenager Josh Brillante has partnered stand-in skipper Ruben Zadkovich in the absence of Wheelhouse and is coming off a man-of-the-match performance against the Roar.

"Joshy has been building into the position and really come on in the last couple of weeks," Wheelhouse said.

"Ruben has played three or four really solid games in a row.

"There is no reason Dutchy needs to change the team - they are going well - but I obviously want to start.

"We will see how it goes."

Wheelhouse, who started running coaching clinics at Blackalls Park last week, joined his teammates to put 400 Jets junior members through their paces at Hunter Stadium yesterday.

They face a Mariners outfit perched on top of the table but embroiled in transfer dramas.

Striker Bernie Ibini is in Belgium on trial, uncertainty remains over whether wonder boy Thomas Rogic will be back from his trial at Celtic, and there is speculation over the future of keeper Matt Ryan.

"We won't read anything into that," Wheelhouse said.

"They are a dangerous team no matter what names they put on the park.

"At times they have played some really good sides and had three or four good players out and have played better. It doesn't matter who [coach] Graham Arnold plays. Whoever he brings in will do a job.

"We will take it as though they are fielding their best side."

After leaking 28 goals in 14 games, the Jets have recorded back-to-back clean sheets.

Wheelhouse attributed the turnaround to being smarter and having a better understanding of when and how to press.

"At the start of the year, we were running around and trying to win the ball high up the pitch," he said.

"Now we are playing a better defensive line and are waiting on teams to come into a certain area and then we go.

"You can see it in the results. Two clean sheets because we are playing like that. It suits us so much better.

"I reckon we have been pretty solid the last three weeks.

"You don't win championships by scoring four or five goals a week.

"You win championships by not conceding."

The Mariners (34 points) are two points clear of nearest rivals Adelaide at the top of the table and 14 above the fifth-placed Jets.

"They have only lost two games this year and one was to us," Wheelhouse said.

"This is an important game for us, and if we want to keep building our little run, we need to get a result."

MENTOR: Jobe Wheelhouse on the training pitch last week.

MENTOR: Jobe Wheelhouse on the training pitch last week.


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