Kokko challenged to ‘score more’ for desperate Jets

Newcastle coach Mark Jones has laid down the gauntlet to Aleksandr Kokko to build on his maiden Hyundai A-League goal and cement a starting position in the Jets side.

Kokko broke his Hyundai A-League duck in last week’s F3 Derby, scoring the opener in a 1-1 draw with Central Coast Mariners in his 10th appearance for the Jets.

It has been a tough debut season for the Finnish striker with an Achilles tendon injury and broken jaw having seen him struggle to string games together.

In January, Jones declared he would be let Kokko go “if an offer came in” but having seen the 29-year-old open his account Newcastle’s boss is willing to give the centre-forward a second chance.

The Jets have relied on goals from wingers Andrew Nabbout (7) and Andrew Hoole (5) this season and Jones would love any of his central attackers to shoulder more of the scoring load.

“I talked to [Kokko] about being effective and if he’s going to play he needs to score goals, and for that matter, that’s anyone who plays nine or 10,” Jones told reporters on Friday.

“We haven’t scored enough goals from that area in comparison to other teams and we need someone to stand up.

“Basically, I’m not too fussed on who does it – someone has to stand up and score those goals.”

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Aleksandr Kokko

Kokko, 29, admitted he may have “responded in the wrong way” earlier in his career when denied game-time.

He hopes to capitalise in the final six games of the season and help Newcastle qualify for the A-League finals.

“Like we say in Finland, it was a big monkey on my shoulder. He’s jumped off now and now I’ll just try to play better and score more goals, now I’ve showed to myself, to the team that I can score here,” Kokko said.

At 189 centimetres, it was perhaps unsurprising that Kokko’s first goal would come via his head with the Finn nodding Morten Nordstrand’s cross into the net in the 20th minute last week.

Kokko explained that it was also apt that his Danish team-mate was the man to set him up.

“From the first week where I arrived here it’s clicked somehow [with Nordstrand],” he said.

“We understand each other… we know maybe how we move or how we want to move.”

With captain Nigel Boogaard and midfielders Wayne Brown and Ma Leilei back from suspension for Sunday’s clash with Brisbane Roar, Jones is thrilled to have “competition for spots”.