NEWCASTLE Jets coach Gary van Egmond is almost certain to take a punt on highly-rated youth league striker Marko Jesic after the club's search for a hired gun proved futile.
Injuries and national team duties have ripped deep into the Jets squad, leaving just 14 players one less than required to fill the bench for the clash with Wellington Phoenix at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Monday.
Of those available, Ecuadorean Edmundo Zura is the only genuine frontman.
Joel Griffiths (hamstring) and Jason Hoffman (knee reconstruction) are out injured and Jason Naidovski is in Thailand with the Australian under-19 side, where he is joined by attacking midfielder James Holland.
Clubs are permitted to sign players on short-term contracts to cover national duties, and van Egmond had been searching far and wide for potential replacements.
"We have feelers out there, but there is no one to get," van Egmond said.
"Realistically, there is no comparable league being played here at the same time.
"You have to look overseas and it has to be fairly close for them to be able to get here.
"You can look at Malaysia and the like, but the problem is that players in those leagues are playing. They are not going to come out here for a week.
"At this stage Marko is most likely to come in for Monday. We will obviously keep looking, but I'm more concerned about getting some of our injured troops back on deck."
An Australian Institute of Sport graduate, Jesic travelled with the Jets to Perth in round two but did not get on the pitch. He is likely to come off the bench on Monday. He and youth league wing-back Jarrad Ross have trained with the senior squad for the past two days.
An impressive performance by Jesic against Wellington could lead to a full-time contract in place of Hoffman, who will see Sydney orthopaedic surgeon Justin Roe tomorrow and hopes to go under the knife early next week.
"How we are going to replace Hoff is something we are still looking at," van Egmond said. "There are a couple of options.
"Marko Jesic is one example. We can also look at an extension for Daniel Piorkowski [who is halfway through on an eight-week deal for Shaun Ontong] or we can look at bringing someone else in."
There was mixed news for the Jets on the injury front yesterday.
Utility Matt Thompson showed no signs of the back complaint which forced him to finish training early on Tuesday, and Danish midfielder Jesper Hakansson was making good progress from a corked thigh.
On the down side, back-up keeper Ben Kennedy strained a medial knee ligament yesterday and is in some doubt for Monday.