Jets coach Phil Stubbins defends Mark Birighitti after Wellington setback

SUPPORT: Mark Birighitti.
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JETS coach Phil Stubbins appears certain to back goalkeeper Mark Birighitti despite the likely availability of Ben Kennedy for Saturday’s clash with Perth at nib Stadium.

Birighitti has attracted criticism from fans after his unconvincing display in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Wellington.

The return of Kennedy, who has been cleared to resume flying after overcoming an ear infection that has ruled him out of Newcastle’s past two games, presents Stubbins with a selection dilemma.

Stubbins said Birighitti and Kennedy were ‘‘both great goalkeepers’’ and any A-League coach would be delighted to have two glovemen of their ability at his disposal.

While Newcastle’s squad will not be named until Thursday, Stubbins voiced his support for Birighitti and hinted that he would be retained.

‘‘I’m not going to discuss any player selections prior to the game, but the good thing is that we’ve got two very good goalkeepers and obviously it’s a bonus that Ben is back,’’ Stubbins said.

‘‘But Mark is an Australian international goalkeeper. He’s been someone that always gives his best for his club and his country.

‘‘He’s perhaps had a couple of moments [against Wellington] that he could have done slightly better with, but we all know how much potential Mark has. He’s 23 years of age and it’s a learning curve.

‘‘He shouldn’t be beating himself up over a mistake or something he could have done better.

‘‘That’s all part of the learning experience for a young goalkeeper.’’

Stubbins said it would be unfair to pin the blame for last week’s setback in New Zealand on individuals, declaring Newcastle were collectively below their best.

‘‘I’m not going to single any player out,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re a team.’’

While Birighitti seems likely to get a chance to redeem himself, Stubbins said he also had confidence in Kennedy, who has appeared in 91 A-League games but only six since Birighitti’s arrival three seasons ago.

‘‘I’ve got enormous faith in Ben and I want these goalkeepers to be fighting for the position,’’ he said.

‘‘Although they’ve got intense rivalry, and that’s a good thing, they’re still a team within a team.

‘‘We’ve got two goalkeepers there who most clubs would take in an instant.’’

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