Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick bemoaned his side’s profligacy in front of goal after they were beaten 2-1 by Melbourne Victory on Saturday evening.
The Jets looked set for a point when substitute Kaine Sheppard levelled proceedings with just 12 minutes to play at AAMI Park.
But James Troisi’s outstanding finish six minutes from time settled the contest and gave the Champions all three points.
Merrick was left frustrated afterwards, insistent Newcastle’s lack of sharpness in the final third has cost them all season.
“I thought it was a good, open game of football, end-to-end stuff,” Merrick told reporters.
“The first half I thought we really did create a lot of chances and we controlled the midfield really well.
“But we get to the penalty box and the finish is just not there. It’s been a problem we’ve had all year.
“We’ve got Roy [O’Donovan] back now and Jair played his best football but we’ve got the same problem - we seem to have twice as many opportunities as opposition teams but we don’t have the quality and that was the difference.
“James Troisi’s shot was the difference. A quality strike into the corner of the net when we should have actually cleared the ball.”
The Jets - who lost last season’s Grand Final to Victory - are seven points adrift of the finals places and that gap could grow to 10 if Adelaide United beat Sydney FC on Sunday.
Merrick conceded that things were getting tougher but said the Jets were their own worst enemy at times.
“There’s no doubt the gap [to the finals places] is getting bigger,” he added.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot, playing so well and we concede goals from fewer shots than what we create and we’re not scoring enough.
“Having said that, there’s only three games we haven’t scored in. We’re just not scoring enough. Last year we scored on a regular basis - this year we’ve struggled.
“I think that we’ve got a good enough squad now to beat anyone … we should have scored more goals.”
Victory boss Kevin Muscat hailed his side’s belief as they pushed in search of a late winner.
“I thought it was an outstanding effort," Muscat said.
"To have the endeavour and belief to go and get that winner, we earned that result tonight.
"Make no mistake. Thoroughly earned it."