Western United had to withstand the heat on two fronts to return home with a share of the points from a nil-all draw with Newcastle Jets in the A-League at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday evening.
United’s defence was on the end of a barrage of attack from the Jets, but they somehow kept a clean sheet, through sheer luck and a stellar performance from goalkeeper Filip Kurto.
The inexperienced United also had to contend with stifling hot and humid weather, but managed to stay focused and yield an important point on a tough away trip.
After conceding four goals with Swiss cheese-like defence against Adelaide United six days earlier, coach Mark Rudan said the first priority for Western United was to shore up its defence.
“We needed to rectify what happened last week, copping four goals, albeit a different opposition,” Rudan said.
“That was a starting base for the week was understanding our roles and responsibilities without the ball.
“In that regard, I thought we were much better.”
Chances on the attacking end were few and far between for Western United.
The best opportunity fell to a tiring Max Burgess with 10 minutes to go, but he put his shot wide. Western United has promoted a lot of youth in the new year, partly to do with exits during the January transfer window and injuries to key players.
With a lot of youngsters in the starting line up, Rudan was pleased to see how his side reacted when it was put under intense pressure from Newcastle, who had a whopping 26 shots on goal.
Inexperienced players Oskar Dillon, Tomi Uskok and Josh Cavallo stepped up.
“It’s not ideal you can’t work with the same players all the time, but it gives an opportunity to somebody else and hope to somebody else,” Rudan said.
“They all put their hand up and put their best foot forward.” Dillon was singled out for his work in defence since joining in the transfer window.
“It’s incredible his rise, three games in, only 20 years of age and his last competitive game was back in October in the Queensland NPL and he hasn’t missed a beat,” Rudan said.
Rudan used his platform to call on the A-League to reconsider its 5pm starts in the summer months in future seasons.
He believes the players welfare is compromised when the temperatures hit the high 30s and the fans do not get value for money.
United has a bye this weekend, before their clash with Brisbane Roar on February 16 at Mars Stadium in Ballarat.