FRUSTRATED coach Ernie Merrick conceded that the Newcastle Jets do not have the budget to bring in another goal-scorer and hopes the impending return of Joey Champness will help provide a lift for the struggling outfit.
The Jets were again left to rue a raft of missed chances before succumbing to Melbourne Victory 2-1 at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
After controlling much of the first half, the visitors 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.
“James Troisi’s shot was the difference,” Merrick said. “A quality strike into the corner of the net when we should have cleared the ball. I thought it was a good performance overall. But good performances have got to count now. First half, we created a lot of chances and controlled the midfield pretty well. But we get to the penalty box and the finish is just not there. It has been a problem all year.”
Roy O’Donovan was twice denied by brilliant saves from Lawrence Thomas. The Victory keeper also tipped a Daniel Georgievski thunderbolt over the bar. Jair scuffed another golden chance.
The loss was the Jets’ second to the Victory this season and leaves them in seventh place on 12 points. Their biggest issue has been in front of goal. They have netted just 14 goals in 13 matches. At the corresponding stage last season, they had bagged 31.
“The gap [to sixth] is getting larger and we keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Merrick said. “We are playing well, yet we concede goals from fewer shots than what we create. We are just not scoring enough. Last year we scored on a regular basis. This year we have struggled to.”
The A-League transfer window closes at the end of the month. Last January the Jets brought in Riley McGree on loan from Club Brugge and Argentinian winger Pato Rodriguez.
“I don’t think we have the budget to bring another player in,” Merrick said. “Obviously, there were issues for the first half dozen games with not having Roy O’Donovan and Jair being unfit and Joey Champness being out. I think we have a squad good enough squad to beat anyone. The squad we had today was a good squad and we should have scored more goals.”
Champness scored from outside the box in his return 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.
The winger, who was a finalist for the A-League’s young player of the year last season, adds a different dimension to the Jets attack with his speed and power.
He was used mainly as an impact player last season, scoring five goals, and is likely to be on the bench for the match against Sydney FC at Jubilee Oval on Saturday.