Papas calls for greater protection for creative players

When the Jets take  to the field this Sunday afternoon at McDonald Jones Stadium, they’ll do so with a returning Daniel Penha, who makes his way back after serving a recent suspension following a red card that he received against the Glory – the same opponents we face this weekend.

The Brazilian livewire was brandished a straight red card in stoppage time of the reverse fixture in Perth after an incident that was deemed serious unsportsmanlike conduct despite receiving the free-kick.

In Penha’s absence, our side disappointingly went down in Brisbane against the Roar and Manager Arthur Papas admitted that the side missed the midfielder’s flair going forward.

Upon the international signing’s return to the side, the Newcastle coach requested that a bigger focus needed to be shown across the league towards creative players who are a “target” for opposition teams.

“It was clear that a certain creativity probably wasn’t as evident [in the loss to Roar] and it’s a bonus to have Daniel back,” Papas said.

“My hope is that he gets a bit more protection than when we played in Perth. There were about 15 fouls in total behind play that were basically avoided. Players like Daniel need to be protected in this league.

“I’d assume it’s part of a strategy to target certain players. If everything is done within the rules of the game, it doesn’t matter. If it’s not within the rules of the game, then it’s a different story.

“I hope the referees do their job to keep the better players on the field and to protect them.”

The Jets enter this game as the only club in the league with three players in the top 10 most fouled – Boumal, Mikeltadze and Penha – while as a team, we also been fouled more than other in the league.

Our draw with the Glory on Wednesday of last week halted a run of momentum the team experienced are back-to-back clean sheet victories and they’ll be looking to re-enter the winners’ circle as the run home heats up.

We return home this Sunday after consecutive matches interstate though, and have begun to find their form when playing in front of the Newcastle faithful. The team have managed to accrue 16 points when playing there this season, and haven’t lost at home in over two months.

Papas said the team were looking forward to being back at home as they search for another crucial three points.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “Our home form is strong. We’ve grown as the season’s progress in terms of how we play at home in front of our fans and members.

“It’s definitely an important game for us to maintain our ambition for what we want to achieve this season.”

With the majority of the competition locked in a neck-and-neck battle to land a finals spot, the side have confessed they’re treating every remaining game like it’s a final.

The Jets currently sit six points away from the sixth place Sydney FC, yet have two games in hand, however Wellington and Central Coast are both in hot positions to shake up the top six.

Despite that, Papas and his side aren’t focusing on the ladder and the possible permutations, instead, their trusting their performances will acquire the results they deserve.

“The results will come when you have the right performances,” he said. “We need to focus on our performance.

“In most seasons there’s usually a certain point tally to get into the six. I’ts usually within 36 to 38 most of the time. [But] we’ve still got 21 points to play for and we want to win all those fames. We win those games and we control our own destiny.

“Our performances for the large part have shown that we can compete at the top end. But there’s [also] been inconsistency and areas where we haven’t done as well as we’d have like, so we’re exactly where we’re meant to be in the end, but it isn’t where we have to finish.”

The Jets kick-off the match with Perth at 4:05pm on Sunday afternoon.