Griffiths to play semi boosts Newcastle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Griffiths to play semi boosts Newcastle

By Michael Cox 09/02/2008 03:36:12 PM Comments (0)

The Newcastle Jets received a huge boost on the eve of their A-League major semi-final clash with the Central Coast Mariners, with key striker Joel Griffiths overcoming a hamstring strain.

Griffiths, the league's leading goal scorer, hadn't trained since aggravating the injury during a Socceroos training camp last week.

On Saturday, he completed a light skills session at EnergyAustralia Stadium to confirm his place in the team for Sunday's match at Gosford's Bluetongue Stadium.

The Jets hold a 2-0 advantage going into the second-leg of the tie and a healthy Griffiths will no doubt boost the confidence of a young Newcastle squad looking to qualify for their first ever A-League grand final.

Still not 100 per cent fit, Griffiths will continue to get treatment on his right leg and is confident that he will be right to go by game time on Sunday.

He admitted that the lure of a possible grand final and a week's rest was in the back of his mind.

"It feels good, I had a good hit-out today and I didn't feel it (the injury) but I wasn't really pushing myself too much," Griffiths said.

"I didn't stretch right out but I couldn't really, we just played some short little games. I wouldn't say I'm 100 per cent, but it's close to it.

"The hamstring feels right but as soon as I feel it in the game, if it's the 10th minute of the 90th minute, I'll put my hand up (to be replaced)."

The Jets have lost their last five games without Griffiths, including two this year - conceding 14 goals and scoring only 3 when the livewire forward is absent over the past two seasons.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond was obviously relieved that his most influential player was on board for the crucial clash and reiterated the importance of Griffiths not aggravating the injury further.

Van Egmond said he wouldn't be taking any unnecessary risks with the favourite for player of the year.

"He pulled up really well. He finished the training session and he did everything that was asked, he didn't pull out at any stage, so at this stage he'll start," van Egmond said.

"He's obviously been very critical for us this year and you can see statistically that he's had a big impact on our season.

"The last thing we want is to risk someone like that - we do have ideas of grandeur, obviously, and it would be terrible for him to miss the Holy Grail if it was a situation where we were fortunate enough to get to the grand final."

Van Egmond revealed exciting 20-year-old South Korean import Song Jin-hyung could make a surprise appearance, possibly starting.

Although the fact that Song didn't participate in many of the team drills today suggest the Newcastle Coach may have been foxing.

The skilful attacking midfielder hasn't played in an A-League game and has been with the Jets little over a month but has impressed on the training pitch with his energy and pace.

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