COACH Ernie Merrick is adamant the Jets will “keep fighting” for a place in the play-offs but for now the priority is ensuring the players recover sufficiently for the Asian Champions League qualifier against Persija Jakarta on Tuesday night.
The Jets’ finals hopes suffered a another blow when held to a 1-all draw with Wellington Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday night.
The stalemate was the Jets’ fifth game in 20 days.
“The changeroom is like a morgue and I feel deflated myself,” Merrick said after the game. “The boys were very tired, worked very hard and created the clear cut chances. My biggest question is how are they going to recover? They are totally exhausted with all these mid-week games. And we have another two games next week. We will do our best.
"Once you're in the group stage of the ACL, you are given time off. But in the two qualifying games we don't have any time off, and if we win the first one, the second one is against the champions, Kashima Antlers, over in Japan, so that will be a challenge for the boys.
"So now to finish in the top six and qualify for the group stage, which is the challenge we've set ourselves, it's going to be very tough physically on the boys, but they are very resilient. They keep coming back."
The Jets remain in seventh place in the A-League, eight points adrift of Wellington with nine games remaining.
“Their attitude is fantastic,” Merrick said. “We keep bouncing back and showing our resilience and challenging every team. There has been no team walk over us. There is still another nines games to go. There is still a chance for us to make the finals and we will do our best to achieve that.
“The draw makes our job more difficult. We just have to keep fighting and try and something out of every match we play.”
Ronny Vargas put the Jets ahead in the 33rd minute against Wellington. The visitors levelled through David Williams in the 58th minute. Both teams had opportunities to win late.
Jets fullback Daniel Georgievski hit the crossbar with head and Roy O’Dovovan also struck the woodwork.
At the other end, Glen Moss saved a Roy Krishna penalty after Luis Fenton was fouled by Ben Kantarovski.
“I thought the boys gave everything,” Merrick said.
“They worked really hard and created a number of clear cut chances. We hit the post, we hit the crossbar and once again the opposition goalkeeper was man of the match. He was making left, right and centre.
“We handled everything they threw at us including a penalty. You can’t deny the boys have given everything they could.”
Wellington coach Mark Rudan said the point could prove pivotal.
“It's a big gap, eight points,” Rudan said. “Knowing that they are in the ACL now as well, it was important.
“We obviously wanted to win the game and could have done so easily but from a mentality point of view, that's a huge result as far as we're concerned because eight points is a lot of points to catch up there.”