Jets boss Merrick applauds Koutroumbis' 'outstanding' comeback
Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick praised Johnny Koutroumbis for a "great performance" in his first Hyundai A-League appearance since being diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer in October.
Koutroumbis completed the full 90 minutes as Newcastle were held to a 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar at McDonald Jones Stadium on Wednesday.
The versatile defender led the hosts for tackles and registered three shots from right-back in an encouraging display fewer than three months after undergoing surgery to remove his cancerous thyroid gland.
"I thought he was outstanding and he was up against a very good player in [Eric] Bautheac," Merrick said of Koutroumbis.
"Johnny, for a 20-year-old just recovering from cancer, I just thought it was a great story and a great performance, and I wasn't going to take him off.
"He's just responded so well. It would have been great if he got a goal at the end, because he was trying his best.
"Because he tried to do that he got caught out at the other end, but I'd rather he works that hard in a positive point of view and maybe concedes at the back."
Merrick's men twice led thanks Dimitri Petratos and Roy O'Donovan only to drop late points for the second game in a row as Bautheac's 87th-minute header forced a share of the spoils.
Newcastle's wasteful first-half finishing ultimately came back to cost them and they were left three points adrift of sixth-placed Wellington Phoenix, although the Jets boss isn't overly concerned by the inconsistent run of results.
"I'm not so worried about the point," he said.
"I really wanted the boys to have a go and they had a go.
"They played under extreme fatigue and they could have had the game sewn up from really good, clear-cut chances. We keep creating them.
"I don't think Roar had that many shots. In that first half we totally controlled the whole game and could have scored a lot of goals."
Image: Newcastle Jets