Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond says he is not underestimating a depleted Central Coast team in Saturday’s derby clash.
The Mariners will be without the departed Tom Rogic and Bernie Ibini for the match at Bluetongue Stadium, with Rogic having just signed a deal with Scottish giants Celtic, while Ibini is on trial with Belgian side Club Brugge.
However van Egmond said the league leaders had his utmost respect despite the absence of the star pair.
“From the perspective of their structure and the way that they do things, they just bring another player in and he’s got it down pat in regards to what they need to do,” van Egmond said.
“Obviously in some areas I suppose the quality will differ, especially in regards to Rogic with his creative ability.
“But it’s on their home turf and it’s a derby, so we’re under no illusions how hard a game it will be regardless of the eleven that takes the field for them at any stage during the game.”
In team news, Jets marquee man Emile Heskey is expected to return to the starting line-up after recovering from a hip injury and being named in an extended 20-man squad for the clash.
“Emile trained the whole session, so there’s no problem with him,” van Egmond said.
“It was good that we rested him last week because we could have pushed him to play, but from the perspective of his longevity in the competition, we held him back and I’m glad we did.”
Defenders Scott Neville (groin) and Josh Mitchell (knee) also return from injury and will battle it out for a starting spot in the back four with Taylor Regan who sat out training on Thursday with a calf injury.
“Taylor had a bit of sore calf, so we didn’t risk him for training, but our medical staff said he should be fine to train tomorrow so we’re just making sure he’s going to be alright,” the Jets coach said.
“Sometimes you can get a bit of tightness in there and that can turn into a little grade one tear and it’s a seven to 10-dayer then, so we’re just hoping it settles down overnight and we’ll go from there.”