Daniel Mullen finds middle ground

Monday, January 21, 2019

DANIEL MULLEN DANIEL Mullen is back where he feels most comfortable.
Nanjing Night Net

Deployed mostly as a right fullback at Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory, Mullen has settled in the heart of the Jets defence.

In partnership with Taylor Regan, the 25-year-old has helped right a ship that had leaked a whopping 35 goals in 15 games when he was signed from Western Sydney.

‘‘I love playing centre back,’’ Mullen said in between training sessions on Tuesday. ‘‘That was one of the main reasons I wasn’t so happy before.

‘‘Playing at right back is all well and good, but when you have a body like mine, it is hard to be mobile and agile.’’

Mullen’s arrival followed the mass sacking of senior players, including central defenders Kew Jaliens and Adrian Madaschi.

Since the shambolic 7-0 defeat to Adelaide, which was the tipping point for a failed player coup against coach Phil Stubbins, the Jets have conceded five goals in four outings.

‘‘It’s hard for me to say what the difference has been because I have only been here a few weeks,’’ Mullen said.

‘‘Since I have come in we have worked really well together and been defending as a unit, starting from the front.’’

Next up is a rampant Sydney FC side at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.

‘‘In the past couple of games they have got some cohesion back and are looking pretty dangerous,’’ Mullen said. ‘‘We will have to be on our toes.’’

Sydney have exploded into form with 19 goals in five games. Towering Austrian striker Marc Janko has contributed eight of them.

‘‘When you come up against teams with that sort of quality, they will test you, certainly a lot more than we have in the past couple of weeks,’’ Mullen said.

‘‘You look at Janko. He is very confident at the moment and starting to play some really good football. It will be something different, too, obviously, with his height.’’

Standing 1.96m, Janko is the tallest skyscraper in the league and has 10cm on Mullen and Regan. But, as he showed with his brace against Wanderers, the marquee has quick feet and is potent on the ground.

‘‘They are a good team because they have quite a few options,’’ Mullen said.

‘‘They can play the long ball and work off Janko, but they can also play little combinations in and around the box.’’

Daniel Mullen playing against the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.

Sydney also have former golden boot Shane Smeltz, former Socceroos regular Alex Brosque and rising star Bernie Ibini in their attacking arsenal.

‘‘Sydney have a tremendous forward line,’’ said Jets midfielder Ben Kantarovski, who returns from suspension with Sydney-bound Andrew Hoole.

‘‘They have Terry Antonis and Bernie Ibini in midfield as well, who are threats going forward. We have to make sure we close Antonis down early and not give him too much time. That is key for all their midfielders.

‘‘They are pretty good on the ball. We have to make sure we get on them early with our pressure and block the passing lanes in behind.’’

Kantarovski is confident the Jets can cause the visitors some problems of their own.

‘‘Sydney have had some good results in the past couple of weeks, but they also have some weaknesses which we are going to try and exploit,’’ he said. ‘‘They have a few injuries and suspensions, especially in their back line.’’

Hoole played striker in a shape drill at training on Tuesday in a sign that Stubbins may be considering a tweak in personnel.