COACH Ernie Merrick again lamented the Newcastle Jets’ lack of a killer punch after they succumbed to Melbourne Victory 2-1 at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The Jets gave as good as they got for much of the match.
But it was the Victory who made the most of the key moments.
The Jets looked set for at least a share of the points when substitute Kaine Sheppard struck in the 78th minute to cancel out Terry Antonis’ 48th minute opener.
Enter James Troisi. Overlooked for the Socceroos’ Asian Cup campaign, the Victory marquee gave a reminder of his match-winning ability, smashing a shot into the roof of the net with six minutes remaining.
The loss was the Jets’ third in the past four outings and they could be as many as 10 points outside the top six at the completion of the round.
“We played terrific football up to the penalty box,” a frustrated Merrick said. “That is our problem, we don’t finish off our good work. It has been that way the whole season – we don’t take our chances when they appear. We have to work on finishing.”
After a cagey opening 45 minutes in which neither team could conjure a goal, Antonis put the home side ahead.
Kenny Athiu knocked a deft pass with the outside of his left foot for Antonis on the edge of the box and the midfielder curled a left-foot shot inside the left post.
Roy O’Donovan and Daniel Georgievski had earlier been denied by fine saves from Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas.
Jair should have put the Jets back on level terms in the 66th minute when he was played into the box by Steve Ugarkovic. However, the Brazilian got tangled up with his feet as he went to sweep a shot on the turn and the ball sliced off the side of his boot.
Ten minutes later the equaliser came. A Matthew-Ridenton shot deflected off a Victory defender and fell for Sheppard. The striker’s first attempt was blocked by Thomas. However, he made no mistake with the second bite, tucking a left-foot shot inside the right post.
Then, with six minutes remaining, Troisi swooped after the Jets failed to clear the ball and smashed a shot at the near post into the roof of the net.
Meanwhile, Joey Champness scored in his return game from a broken foot as the Jets gave up a late goal to go down 3-2 to Sydney FC in the national youth league game at Lambert Park on Saturday.