April 21, 2015 12:47:09 UK
Newcastle Jets keeper Ben Kennedy can become one of the top stoppers in the A-League, according to coach Jess Vanstrattan.
Kennedy goes into the Jets’ final game of the season away to Brisbane Roar on Friday looking to pick up what would be just his third clean sheet of the season.
Newcastle have been involved in a season-long battle against the wooden spoon that will be unsuccessful unless they can beat the defending champions at Suncorp Stadium, where they are 4.75 to win.
It has been a traumatic season for the club on and off the field, yielding just three wins in 26 matches.
The Jets have conceded a league-high 53 goals and have a goal difference that is nine worse than any other team in the competition.
How much Kennedy can be held responsible is a different question, as he has played behind a defence that during the season has lost Kew Jaliens, Adrian Madaschi, Craig Goodwin and Sam Gallaway.
The former Australia U-23 keeper has been Newcastle’s first-choice since round seven when he came in for Mark Birighitti, who has since gone on loan to Italian Serie B side AS Varese.
Vanstrattan, who joined in a player/mentor capacity in early February, says he can help take Kennedy’s game to another level when he switches to a full-time coaching role next season
He said the 28-year-old, who signed a two-season contract extension earlier this year, had a lot of potential.
“There are a number of things that we can work on with him and continuously improve,” said Vanstrattan. “It comes back to the style of play that we want to play, things like keeping the ball and playing out from the back.
“‘BK’ has a lot of talent – he’s a good shot-stopper but I think we can make him more commanding in the area, more demanding, give him a bigger presence.”
He added: “He has the possibility and potential to make the step from where he is now to being one of the best goalkeepers in the league. I can’t see why he can’t achieve that.”
Newcastle Jets are 15.00 to beat Brisbane Roar 1-0.
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