Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond hailed the impact of Emile Heskey after the striker’s brace powered their 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory.
Having had no pre-season with the side there were some queries as to whether the English striker, who has been to two World Cups, would be up to speed with his team-mates but Friday’s win, the Jets’ third on the trot, quashed any such talk.
Heskey opened the scoring nine minutes into the second half, and doubled the Jets advantage two minutes later with a stunning strike over his shoulder – and van Egmond was delighted by the form of his new signing.
“It was fantastic – I think it’s four (goals) in four games,” the coach said. “From that respect it’s a great return.
“He leads the line, he is a real number nine and he is someone who really takes the opposition backline to task if you like. We have a lot of really, really good lieutenants but he’s the one who we really need as the person who leads that line.
“With the amount of confidence that other players are getting and the amount of time the other players are getting, they are able to do better things with themselves and the ball. It’s a lot to do with the fact of what Emile does.
“He might not have as many touches as some players but his positions and the way he tracks certain players, the other players are really benefitting from that.”
The striker, who registered his first brace since 2007 when playing for Wigan in the English Premier League, was substituted in the 84th minute, with van Egmond confirming it was a precautionary measure.
“(He was) a little bit tight in his calf. But nothing untoward but more so just to make sure he’s fine,” he said.
“The boys will now do recovery and get a day off which they’ll savour and we are back into it.”
Heskey was not the only one drawing praise from van Egmond, with Jets shot-stopper Mark Birighitti’s efforts not going unnoticed by his coach.
“He saved us especially in that first half,” van Egmond said.
Birighitti, 21, was called on three times in three minutes late in the first half to prevent Marco Rojas, Archie Thompson and Adama Traore from getting a Victory opener.