MIDFIELD linchpin Ben Kantarovski is in doubt for the Newcastle Jets’ FFA Cup showdown with Melbourne City on Wednesday with a calf issue.
Kantarovski injured the calf in the warm-up and didn’t feature in the 2-all draw with the Central Coast Mariners in a friendly at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
John Koutroumbis (hamstring) also sat out the trial.
“Ben Kantarovski pulled his calf in the first couple of minutes off the warm-up,” coach Ernie Merrick said.
“Now it is a concern for him and Johnny Koutroumbis whether they will be right for Wednesday night.”
Angus Thurgate, who signed a three-year deal last week, replaced Kantarovski at the base of midfield.
However, he struggled to get into the game and switched roles with Dimi Petratos.
“Once we got the midfield right, we started to control things,” Merrick said. “Gus was a bit out of place. Once he got to the wing he was much better.
“I moved Dimi into the middle of midfield and he, Ronny Vargas and Steve Ugarkovic started to run the show.
“That was a big change for us.
“The first 25 minutes we didn’t play our normal style of football. It was poor. We were giving the ball away and trying difficult long-range passes because it looked like we had strikers free up front.
“When we played short passes, we were walking through them and getting so many opportunities in front of goal.”
Most of the attention of the 4000 fans was on Mariners’ triallist Usain Bolt, who cooled his heels in the dugout.
The world’s fastest man, who hopes to win a contract, trained with the rehabilitation group Saturday morning and is expected to make his debut against a Central Coast select side next Friday.
The Mariners stretched the Jets early and took the lead in the 10th minute through a Jack Clisby freekick.
The defender curled a shot from the left which surprised Jets keeper Noah James and dipped under the bar.
Deputising for Glen Moss, who had an illness in the family, James recovered and pulled off a series spectacular saves.
Ben Kennedy was also busy at the other end as the Jets found their rhythm.
Jason Hoffman led the Jets attack and was denied by a brilliant reflex effort from Kennedy in the 32nd minute.
The striker wouldn’t be denied in the 40th minute, making a run at the far post to slot home a searching ball across the box by Nick Cowburn.
Roy O’Donovan replaced Hoffman after 55 minutes and two minutes later the Irishman, who will miss the FFA Cup match on suspension, put the Jets ahead.
Daniel Georgievski made a run down the left and crossed for O’Donovan to head home.
“It was good to see Jason score again and Roy come on and get a goal,” Merrick said.
Merrick cleared the bench on the hour and a minute later Connor Pain equalised with a stunning strike from the edge of the box.