Jets sweat on Kanta

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NEWCASTLE Jets are optimistic that an injury to Ben Kantarovski’s problematic right knee, which forced the home-grown utility from the field on Saturday night, will not be long-term.
Nanjing Night Net

The 24-year-old clutched at his right leg after slidingin to blocka ball in the 82nd minute of the 2-0 loss to Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium.

He immediately signalled to the bench and was replaced by teenage debutantJohnny Koutroumbis, whoonly joined the Jets from the Adelaide youth program last week. Already without Daniel Mullen (knee) and Lachlan Jackson (ankle), the latest setback has plunged theJetsintocrisisahead of the trip across the Tasman to take on Wellington Phoenix.

If Kantarovski, a midfielder-turned-makeshift defender, is sidelined, it leaves skipper Nigel Boogaard as the only centre back in the squad to have started an A-Leaguegame.

Coach Mark Jones bemoanedthe”bad run of injuries” which”hopefullygets better” but remained upbeat.

“On the positive side, young Johnny came on and did a good job,” he said.

Kantarovski, who is off contract,hashad two majorsurgeries on the same knee. He had a knee reconstruction in 2010 and missed most of 2012 after having his meniscus repaired. Theearly diagnosis isanother meniscus problem. Results of an MRI scan on Sunday will determine the extent.

“You always hope it isn’t something bad,” Jones saidon Saturday night.

“Hopefully it is only minor and he will be right to play. He had a bit of trouble with his meniscus. It seemed to pop back in and he says it feels fine. He wanted to go back out there.”

INJURY: Ben Kantarovski receives treatment on Saturday. Picture: Grant Sproule

Scans this week will determine if Jackson requires surgery andpotentiallyfour months on the sideline. The toweringcentre back haspartially torn the ligament in his ankle. Ideally theligament knits itself. If not he will require a wire to be inserted.

As well as the defenders,Ben Kennedy (ruptured Achilles) is out for the season and yet to be replaced.

On theplus side, Mullenis ahead of schedule in his recovery from atornmedial ligament.

“It looks like Dan Mullen might be back sooner rather than later,” Jones said. “He is a good healer andis probably only four to sixweeks away.”

Jones coachedKoutroumbis,an injury replacement for Daniel Alessi (knee reconstruction),when in charge ofthe Adelaide youth team and is confident the teenager can step up if Kantarovski is out.

“I thought he was good,” Jones said.

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“He is composed,a good athlete, reads the game well. We started to play out from the back and I thought we were dangerous in the last 15 and were unlucky not to score.”

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Despite the emergence of Kourtoumbis, Jones remains open to bringing inan experienced defender as an injury replacement.

Former Socceroo Jon McKain has returned from Malaysia and could be a possibility.

“We are always looking but it is not a case of replacing someone with anybody,” he said. “We have to make sure it is the right fit for the team. At this point we haven’t found the right person.”

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