HOW the mighty have fallen.
A-League champions 11 months ago, the Newcastle Jets' fall from grace could be complete by tomorrow night.
The Jets slumped to a third straight loss, 2-0 to Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium last night.
The defeat, their eighth from the past 11 games, leaves them anchored to the bottom of the table on 15 points with two rounds remaining.
Second-last Perth (19 points) need only beat Melbourne at home tomorrow night and the wooden spoon will be heading to the Hunter. If Melbourne win, the Jets may still need to claim maximum points against Perth (home) and Sydney (away) to escape the spoon.
What had been a positive week with the release of the draw for the Asian Champion League quickly turned sour.
A goal in each half to Fabian Barbiero (21st minute) and Steve Pantelis (74th) was enough to earn the home side victory and move them to the top of the table. The Jets tried valiantly but lacked the man-power to match Adelaide.
The youth league fixture told the tale of the two clubs. The Reds boasted marquee player and former Bundesliga star Paul Agostino, fringe Socceroo Angelo Costanzo, Ivory Coast international Jonas Salley and first-team regular Jason Spagnuolo. Not surprisingly Adelaide won 5-0.
Though first grade was not as lopsided, the Jets never looked like springing an upset.
Injuries and departures again cut deep, forcing coach Gary van Egmond to hand starts to Antun Kovacic and youth league striker Brodie Mooy.
Mooy and second-half substitutes Jesse Pinto and Jarrad Ross all made their A-League debuts after being promoted from youth league.
Van Egmond said after the game that blooding so many youngsters was not ideal.
"We are trying to share the workload with the young players so we don't get injuries," he said.
"A lot of the young players we are blooding at the moment are not really ready.
"I thought Brodie Mooy did a good job in the first half, but realistically these boys are not ready, but they are getting game time purely for the lack of numbers. It is a good experience for them, but realistically they are not going to help us in the Champions League."
Kovacic, who was told mid-season he wasn't wanted, played alongside Adam Griffiths in the heart of the defence.
Mooy started at the point of a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Last night's game, Adelaide's third in seven days, was the testimonial for former captain Michael Valkanis, who played the second half in front of 13,585 fans.
The Jets had an appeal for a penalty turned down in the 20th minute after Matt Thompson appeared to be bundled over in the area.
A minute later Adelaide were in front.
Barbiero ran onto a Scott Jamieson pass just outside the area.
With seemingly little on, Barbiero skipped past two defenders and produced a stinging left-foot shot from a tight angle which beat Ante Covic and flew into the roof of the net.
The Jets pushed and probed without ever really threatening. Their best chance was a long-range effort from Mark Milligan on the stroke of half-time which Eugene Galekovic tipped over.
Pantelis, playing his first game since hurting his knee in November, sealed the win with another quality finish, hitting a pile-driver from the right corner of the box after defender Adam d'Apuzzo lost possession near the halfway line.
Van Egmond brought on Pinto and Ross as the Jets searched for a goal.
But Pinto lasted just 16 minutes before he was hooked for Kaz Patafta.
Van Egmond defended his substitution of Pinto during a Fox Sports television interview after the game.
He said the 18-year-old midfielder was making mistakes and was "the worst player out there".
But later in the post-match press conference he tempered his comments.
"He was having a very torrid time. I think every ball he gave away. He was getting less and less confident. I thought rather than prolong the agony for the kid take him off and put someone else on," van Egmond told the press conference.
"That is what you get sometimes with young ones. They look fantastic at training and in the youth league but throw them in and it becomes too much.
"There are two chains of thought: you can leave them out there and let them try and grind through, which can be detrimental, or you can try and save him. That is what I tried to do. He is a good young player with a bright future, but it was not his night tonight."