The Newcastle Jets are sweating on the fitness of Australian under-23 representative Ben Kantarovski ahead of Friday night's crucial A-League clash with Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.
Newcastle Jets are sweating on the fitness of Australian under-23 representative Ben Kantarovski ahead of Friday night's crucial Hyundai A-League clash with Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.
Kantarovski arrives back from the under-23-s ill-fated Olympic qualifying campaign on Friday morning and with Jets skipper and key midfielder Jobe Wheelhouse sidelined with a groin injury for the second consecutive week.
Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond will consider rushing Kantarovski straight back into the squad for the match with Adelaide.
"We have Ben Kantarovski coming back Friday morning, so we have to evaluate him," van Egmond said.
"It will be great to have Ben back. You always want to have your strongest team on the park and if there is a chance he can play as a six then we will do it."
"We will know once he gets back and see how he has travelled and how he feels, so there are a number of factors before we can decide whether he can play."
"He has played 65 minutes on Wednesday night and is uninjured and again we will know more once he gets back but we have some contingency plans already. So we will see."
Van Egmond was running Taylor Regan and 17-year-old Connor Chapman in the defensive midfielder role at training on Thursday and said they would be the back-ups if Kantarovski was unable to take the field.
Regan started in the role in last week's 2-0 loss to the Glory before coming off in the first half with a stomach illness, while Chapman played only 12 minutes in his debut in the A-league but look assured in the sweeper role.
"We are looking fine we just went through some of our paces today to see in regards to the midfield what and who is going to play there," van Egmond said.
"We have young Taylor (Regan) and Connor (Chapman) in there as part of the six and if Kanta (Kantarovski) can't play one those two will start."
"Taylor did OK last week but had to come off due to illness but we will look to see who will work best."
Van Egmond acknowledged that a win is crucial for the Jets to maintain their push for a top six spot, while Adelaide also need nothing less than a victory to keep their faint finals hopes alive.
"It is critical and especially being at home - we need to ensure we get maximum points and with Adelaide it is probably their last hurrah if they want to be part of the top six, so we know we are coming up against a desperate team," he said.
"It is a tough one for them as they have played three games in nine days and have only had five days since their last game."
"We have been in that same boat and it can make the team more galvanised, so we know we will be in for a tough game."