Newcastle Jets coach Clayton Zane is hopeful of having Emile Heskey available to face Wellington Phoenix on Sunday, but backed Adam Taggart to make up for his absence if the marquee striker is ruled out.
Heskey was a late withdrawal for the home game against Western Sydney Wanderers last Saturday, prompting Nick Ward to come into the starting XI.
It was youngster Taggart who stole the show at Hunter Stadium, scoring twice as the Jets held the reigning premiers to a 2-2 draw.
And while Heskey has a chance of being passed fit and returning to the team, Zane feels his players are more than capable of coping without the powerful centre-forward.
"We'll give Emile until the last minute possible to try and make himself available," he said.
"Obviously we need to prepare, and we have done so this week, without him. If we can get Emile back it would obviously be a big boost against a team that's very good defensively."
For those familiar with Taggart's small stature and swift acceleration, it may be surprising to learn that the four-cap Socceroo pictures himself as a central striker.
"He's desperate to lead the line," Zane said.
"He's learning from Emile. And he'll learn from Joel (Griffiths) at the same time as well. But he has in his head that he wants eventually to be someone who leads the line, so now's his moment to stand up and be counted. He's done that last week.
"We don't want to put him under too much pressure but if he can stay in similar form to what he was against West Sydney then we've got a good player."
Zane anticipates the Phoenix causing plenty of problems to his team, but is also hopeful the attack-minded New Zealand side will leave space at the back for his players to exploit.
"They're a difficult team in that they have four or five players high up the pitch that can make a difference," he said.
"They play a lot of stuff off the cuff ... obviously we need to know their strengths and weaknesses. But I think it's a game where if we carry on from last week and keep that defensive structure it's going to make life difficult for Wellington."
Finally, Zane said the Phoenix game will come too soon for left-back David Carney to be involved, as the new signing seeks to rediscover full fitness.comments