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Jan 14, 2011

Jets coach Culina begs for end to injuries

Having seen his side drag themselves back into the A-League's top six, Newcastle coach Branko Culina admitted just one more injury would kill their season.

A rapidly expanding injury ward, compounded with the departure of troubled defender Ljubo Milicevic, has Culina fearing another untimely stint on the sidelines would be the death knell on their title hopes.

"We have a very thin squad so we'll need a bit of luck with injuries, that's very true," Culina told AAP.

"We've got a very small squad, so we're relying on very much the same 12-13 players for every game and unfortunately when we pick up an injury we suffer because we've got to look at our depth in the youth team.

"If we can keep the same team on the park most of the time we'll be ok, but if we pick up any more injuries we'll struggle because we just do not have the depth."

The Jets' resources were further tested this week when they released Milicevic to seek a more lucrative deal overseas.

His exit added to the absence of a host of Culina's stars, including Michael Bridges, Jeremy Brockie, Francis Jeffers, Ben Kantarovski and Sean Rooney.

Not that Culina was about to question the decision to let Milicevic walk away.

"That's history, we've got what we have, we can't go back," he said.

"If we looked at it that way you could say `if we only had Bridgey and Brockie and Jeffers and Kantarovski and Rooney and Ljubo we'd have nine more players'.

"But we haven't and we've just got to do the best we can with what we've got.

"And what we've got is pretty good as long as we can keep it on the park."

Back to back victories over North Queensland in the past week have eased the Jets back into the top six, but Culina knows just how valuable three points over rivals Central Coast on Sunday at EnergyAustralia Stadium would be.

"I think it is vitally important to win at home ... certainly this week is an important game from that point of view," he said.

"We know what our goal is and Central Coast is just one of a number of teams in our way (to reaching that goal).

"We have to overcome them to be able to reach our objective for this season and that is to make the finals in four weeks time."

Culina admitted Ben Kennedy (concussion) will be a game day decision after the talented shot-stopper did not take part in Friday's training session, while his replacement, Matthew Nash, is also under a fitness cloud.

Meanwhile, one of the Mariners' rising stars received some welcome news on Friday, with the club announcing Marc Warren had signed with English Championship side Sheffield United.

The 19-year-old, who is yet to make his A-League debut, impressed Sheffield during a two week trial recently before earning a two-year deal.

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