By Lance Jenkinson
It was a baptism of fire for Tomi Uskok in his Western United debut. Uskok slotted into a United defence that was battered with shot after shot by the Newcastle Jets attackers last start.
The post-game stats showed the Jets had 27 shots to four, but the United defence kept a clean sheet, thanks to its stellar defence, a stand out game by goalkeeper Filip Kurto and a whole lot of luck.
Uskok, a former Melbourne Knights and Sydney United player who had played for Central Coast Mariners previously in a brief A-League stint, could be proud of his first-up display for United.
While he would not want to be as frequently under the pump as he was against the Jets, Uskok showed he can handle the best of what the A-League has to throw his way.
“There were definitely good players out there, physical and aggressive,” Uskok said. “It’s always a challenge playing against different sorts of attributes and different sorts of players. “They pose another challenge, but, yeah, I’m learning every day.”
Uskok, a January transfer window signing, arrived at Western United underdone because he was in the middle of his NPL pre-season training campaign.
The 28-year-old still managed to last 74 minutes in oppressive heat before he was subbed out.
With a number of key defensive injuries, Uskok’s impact has been much needed and looks to be a handy acquisition.
“I guess it’s difficult coming in when everyone’s in-season and full conditioned,” Uskok said.
“I’m coming off a pre-season halfway through and probably haven’t played a competitive game for four months, it’s a challenge, but it’s just about working hard and trying to build up to a point where you’re comfortable and the coaching staff are backing me in, so that’s good.”
The transition from Sydney to Melbourne was easier for Uskok than most. His family lives in this city and he is familiar with the area, having grown up in the western suburbs.
“I’ve got my parents here,” Uskok said. “Knowing where everything is, knowing the area and where I am definitely makes it a lot easier to settle.”
Uskok will be hoping to get a start for Western United in its crucial clash with Brisbane Roar at Mars Stadium in Ballarat on Sunday from 4pm.
Having beaten the Roar, coached by Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, earlier in the season, United can go in with a little bit of confidence.
“It gives you confidence as a team, but every game is different,” Uskok said.
Meanwhile, the A-League and W-League clubs celebrated the annual Play Football round last weekend, a campaign that encourages junior football participation and registration across the country.