Culina hails defence

Newcastle coach Branko Culina has praised his side's defence and mental toughness after the Jets' gritty 2-1 derby win over the Central Coast Mariners on Friday night.

Newcastle coach Branko Culina has praised his side's defence and mental toughness after the Jets' gritty 2-1 derby win over the Central Coast Mariners on Friday night.

The Jets controlled the opening 20 minutes of the Round 12 encounter with Michael Bridges and Labinot Haliti snaring early goals to give the home side a great start.

But the Mariners worked their way back into the game via a goal to Adam Kwasnik and then dominated the rest of the match only to be denied by a determined defensive effort from Newcastle.

"That (the defence) was the feature of the game for me," Culina said after the match. "Because I knew everything else I knew about the team; I knew we could play good football."

"It was really a game of two halves so to speak; the first where we played some terrific football and set up the win, and the second half where the players challenged themselves and they were absolutely brilliant."

"We showed we have got what it takes. There has been some talk about, ‘has Newcastle got that mental toughness and that physical presence that is required?' and tonight we showed we have."

Culina underlined the importance of having experience and a physical presence in the hard-fought derby encounter and singled out veteran Angelo Costanzo, who had a memorable game as the central defender in a 3-5-2 formation, as crucial for the win.

"Angelo brings us a lot of experience," said Culina.

"When you have a guy who has been a legend in Australian football for a decade but age is catching up and he is not as mobile as he used to be but he still offers an incredible amount of experience and knowledge and that is the reason we went to the system (3-5-2), so we could accommodate Angelo to help the younger players around him."

"I thought he was terrific marshaling the youngsters such as Ben Kantarovski and Ben Kennedy at the back and Angelo did the job superbly and I thought that was one of the telling factors in the game."

The Newcastle coach stressed the importance of his side's first win in almost two months and admitted he was relieved to have final picked up the three points after dominating displays on the park without reward.

"I would be lying if I said differently,' he said. "It was important that we won, especially at home for our fans who have been terrific throughout the year and supported us ever so well considering our results but I'd like to think they were pleased with the way we have been playing and tonight was a thank you and a payback for them."