GCU set for depth test

Injuries and international duty look set to stretch Gold Coast United to the limit ahead of Friday night's match against Melbourne Heart at Skilled Park.

Injuries and international duty look set to stretch Gold Coast United to the limit ahead of Friday night's match against Melbourne Heart at Skilled Park.

With in-form youngster James Brown and defender Dylan McGowan both away with the Qantas Australian U-23s and teenage sensation Ben Halloran (knee) only rated a 50-50 chance of playing, coach Miron Bleiberg has been forced to ring the changes ahead of Heart's visit.

Halloran took a knock to his knee in a training game earlier in the week and was restricted to light duties and running at United's final training session prior to their engagement with Melbourne on Thursday morning.

Bleiberg said he will take a no-risk policy towards the talented winger, who would have been in line for a starting position if he were fit.

"The last thing we want to do is to cause more damage to him. If he doesn't improve dramatically tomorrow, he won't play," he said.

Regardless of Halloran's availability, the United coach confirmed that enigmatic attacker Tahj Minniecon and fellow youngsters Golgol Mebrahtu and Mitch Bevan are all in the mix for starting spots.

Left-sided utility Bevan was impressive off the bench in Gold Coast's 2-1 loss to Adelaide last weekend, while Minniecon hasn't played since the opening round and Mebrahtu is yet to feature this season.

It means that United's decision to use their two-time National Youth League championship-winning squad as the basis for their senior side will come under the microscope on Friday night.

With such a heavy emphasis being placed on youth, captain Michael Thwaite this week took it upon himself to dish out some advice to his charges on how he made his breakthrough to senior football.

Thwaite - himself a former Qantas Young Socceroos U20 and Qantas Australian U-23s team member - knows the road to the top is littered with talented players who for some reason never made the cut.

His message to Gold Coast's generation next was simple: "The only way to do it is to work hard at training. The guys that work hardest during the week will play."

"If I'm not getting selected then I'm back at the coach's door asking why. That's the mentality everyone should take, because we're getting paid as professionals."

"That's how I've conquered anything, from Romania to Melbourne to here."

Thwaite admitted the absence of Brown in particular would rob his side of what has proven to be a reliable avenue to goal this season - but said the opportunity was there for other players.

"He's a big loss for us, and I'm probably his number one fan - but we've got to forget about him for a couple of weeks," he said.