NEAR MISS: Mitch Cooper unleashes his shot against the bar against the Mariners on Saturday. Picture: Ryan OslandMITCH Cooper opened his A-League scoring account in just his second game.It seems an eternity ago.
Then aged 17, Cooper scored for Gold Coast United against the Central Coast Mariners at Skilled Stadium on February 22, 2012.
Three years – and two knee reconstructions – later the now Jets attacker is still waiting for his second.
He came within a blade of grass of ending the drought against the Mariners on Saturday when a right-foot shot hit the bar and angled down onto the turf, catching the inside edge of the chalk before being cleaned up by keeper Liam Reddy.
Cooper’s close call sparked debate over video technology and occurred on the same weekend that a FIFA rules committee put off a trial of video reviews for contentious decisions for at least a year.
‘‘I did think it was in and celebrated a bit early,’’ Cooper told the Herald.
‘‘I didn’t want to look back at the linesman. I was hoping to hear the whistle. At the end of the day it wasn’t a goal.’’
Rather than curse his bad luck, Cooper said the near miss had made him hungrier.
‘‘I am just going to back myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I have been making the runs and getting closer and closer.
‘‘A player in my position, it is important to score goals.
‘‘That is a key factor I have to focus on. I am getting in good positions. I just have to finish off. Hopefully next week, if I get an opportunity, luck might go the other way.’’
In his eighth appearance and third start since returning from a second ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, Cooper was deployed in central midfield in the derby.
Although ‘‘happy to play anywhere’’, the 20-year-old believed he was better suited closer to the action.
‘‘I can play out wide, but I feel like I can impact the game a bit more in the middle,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I like to get between the lines and turn, get in positions where I can shoot. Playing centrally gives me more flexibility.
‘‘That was my first solid 70 minutes. My fitness levels are getting better.
‘‘The more game time I get, my body will catch up.
‘‘Hopefully I can start again [against Sydney] and build on last week.’’
Apart from ending a goal drought, Cooper hopes to do enough to earn a new contract at the Jets.
‘‘I want to stay here and give something back to the fans,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I have been missing for two seasons. To be back on the stage at Hunter Stadium is what I want.’’
Cooper has a firm backer in Jets assistant and former youth coach James Pascoe.
‘‘Unfortunately for Mitch his injury history is well documented,’’ Pascoe said.
‘‘That has meant he has spent a little bit more time in the youth team than his talent deserves.
‘‘People got a bit of a glimpse on the weekend what that boy is capable of. He just needs a little bit of luck with his body, a run of games and I think that first goal and assist will see him take off.’’
AAP reports: Goals may be their focus but defence is the key to Brisbane Roar rekindling their Asian Champions League campaign against the Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan on Wednesday night.
Roar coach Frans Thijssen has made no bones about the fact that they must come out firing against the powerhouse Japanese club, especially after losing 1-0 at home last week to a 10-man Beijing Guoan in their ACL opener.
And the portents are good for the reigning A-League champions.
The Roar have scored nine goals in their past four A-League games. But Thijssen admits all eyes will be on his back four at Saitama Stadium on Wednesday night.
‘‘They will continually try and get behind us. We will have to be disciplined and not let their attackers get too much room,’’ Thijssen said.
Veteran defender Shane Stefanutto will replace Jerome Polenz, who did not travel due to visa player restrictions