Fuming Culina to go into F3 derby shorthanded
Newcastle Jets coach Branko Culina says the re-scheduled A-League match against North Queensland on Tuesday could cost his team in Saturday’s F3 derby against the Central Coast Mariners.
The Jets were forced to stay an extra three days in Townsville after their clash with the Fury was postponed last Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch, eventually going down in Tuesday’s match 2-1.
And Culina has been forced to count the cost of the disrupted schedule with striker Sean Rooney, captain Matt Thompson and midfielder Jobe Wheelhouse all ruled out of the trip to Gosford.
While Rooney didn’t play against the Fury, Thompson and Wheelhouse both featured and Culina said their lack of recovery time was the main reason they won’t be available to tackle the Mariners.
“People were saying I was being a bit harsh at the FFA for rescheduling a game on Tuesday but I knew what we were up against,” Culina told reporters on Friday.
“I knew that if we played on Tuesday, giving the players less time to recover, maybe, maybe if we had an extra two or three days these guys could’ve been available.
“We don’t know, but that’s why we were pretty keen to play it either Saturday or Sunday. Just to give the players enough time to recover.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s not only Rooney, Wheelhouse and Thompson. Don’t forget (Fabio) Vignaroli and (Neil) Young are not there either. That’s five players that would normally have started.”
Losing so many key players is worrying Culina, with the Jets teetering on the brink of finals qualification.
Currently they stand sixth, four points ahead of seventh-placed Brisbane Roar with two matches to play.
And although a win over their NSW rivals on Saturday night would secure their finals berth, Culina is still not sure his team is prepared for cut-throat football.
“It’s such a vital game, you can’t force people to play if they’re not physically or mentally right,” Culina said of his decision to rule out the injured trio.
“You’ve also got to be careful that it doesn’t preclude them from being available in future.
“We’ll be there, we’ll give anything we have and we won’t die wondering.
“It’s not a time of opportunities, it’s a time of getting the job done and getting into, hopefully, the finals with a settled team or a settled squad.”
The Mariners, whose coach Lawrie McKinna has denied he is lining up taking over as Fury boss next season, are out of the finals running after their 3-1 loss to Perth last weekend.
But they won’t be lacking motivation to end a 10-match winless run which stretches back to November against their finals-chasing neighbours.
Saturday’s derby kicks off at Bluetongue Stadium at 6pm AEDT.© AAP 2013