For the second week in a row, 19-year-old Mark Natta has been named in the heart of the Jets’ defence ahead of co-captain Matt Jurman. Manager Arthur Papas warned that it might not be a temporary move.
After featuring in only four matches for the Western Sydney Wanderers last season, the teenager has found himself taking the field over the skipper for the start of the 2022/23 A-League Men season.
Papas’ faith was well-founded in the 2-1 stoppage-time win, securing the Jet’s first opening game win since the 2017/18 season. The ball-playing centre-back looked comfortable from the first minute acting as Newcastle’s distributor out of the back half.
Natta was one of three Jets defenders making their club debut alongside James McGarry and Carl Jenkinson. It was a new-look defence under Arthur Papas that gave up minimal chances against a spirited Perth Glory outfit.
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The Newcastle manager was questioned about how Natta will fit in his back four throughout the season. He gave nothing away but said if the teenager can perform at that level every week, it would be hard to take him out of the squad.
“You’ve got to be your best every day, and I think Mark acquitted himself quite well today,” Papas said post-match.
“The challenge for young players is to be consistent and not just play one good game, but Mark’s put together some really strong performances in the pre-season so today was no surprise.
“I hope he gets a lot of belief from today, there’s a lot of potential with him.”
Papas spoke incredibly highly of his back four, complimenting them on their efforts holding Perth’s strikers Bruno Fornaroli and Ben Azubel to just two shots between the pair.
Glory’s only goal came from Jordan Elsey making a careless mistake on the edge of the box. Elsey went from hero to villain as he received a red card and gave away a penalty for making accidental contact with David Williams’ head while trying to control the ball.
The mistake brought Glory level and left the Jets with 10 men for the final 20 minutes. However, it woke up the Newcastle defence who had become complacent after scoring the first goal.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Mark Natta was overjoyed with the result and said he was inspired by the response from the team after Elsey was sent off.
“It was a battle out there, we kept them quiet early and then it seemed like they caught a wave of confidence and didn’t back down,” he said.
“The belief the boss showed in me really gave me confidence that I belong here, and I hope I repaid that belief today.
“I think we showed how professional we are, especially when we dropped down to 10 men. To get the three points just reflects the courage and composure we have.”
The Jets’ defence managed to quell any offensive push the Glory made in the dying stages of the game. The resilience resulted in an open counterattack for Jaushua Sotiro, who found the prolific Beka Mikeltadze open in the box and made no mistake to give Newcastle the win in the 94th minute.
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