HE'S played barely 90 minutes for the Newcastle Jets over the course of three seasons, but finally it seems Kosta Petratos is set to be rewarded for his perseverance.
Petratos scored the goal that kept Newcastle's season alive on Tuesday night, clinching a 2-1 win against Sydney FC to lift the Jets within three points of the top six with three rounds to play.
It was his 10th appearance for Newcastle, all as substitute, and he has never spent more than 18 minutes on the pitch.
But the quality of his strike has staked a claim for further opportunities and increased game time, starting with tonight's derby showdown against Central Coast in Gosford.
Newcastle's assistant coach, Kenny Miller, said Petratos, who shared the bench with brothers Dimi and Makis on Tuesday, "brings an energy to the team" and his goal was just reward for his commitment to the cause.
"Every time he comes on he never lets anyone down ... he trains hard every day, he works hard, he trains right every day," Miller said.
"He's not maybe had the game time he would have liked, but he keeps his head right and his mind right and when he's asked to come on and make a difference, he's impacting most games.
"I was delighted for him to get the winner the other night. I think it's a reward."
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna revealed that the club had already talked to the 22-year-old about extending his contract beyond the end of this season.
"We spoke to him a few months ago [before the coronavirus shutdown] and the coach [Carl Robinson] is keen on keeping him," McKinna said.
"But now everything is on hold until we know what the salary cap is.
"Like all our players, we don't actually know what we can offer him until the collective-bargaining agreement is sorted out."
Petratos debuted in the A-League as a 17-year-old in February, 2016, when he played for Perth Glory against Wellington.
But in the ensuing five seasons he has made just 18 further appearances, only once in the starting XI.
McKinna was hopeful Tuesday's goal would prove a turning point in his career.
"He's got a great attitude," McKinna said.
"He works really hard. There's never been any issue about his work rate or training, it's just that he's needed to score goals.
"And that was a class goal the other night. A great goal. Confidence wise, hopefully he'll grow a few inches.
"He's scored a goal in the A-League, and won us a game in the 90th minute against the defending champions. So he's not just a sub, he's not just Dimi Petratos' brother. He'll be flying at the moment."
After knocking off the competition leaders, Newcastle can't afford anything less than maximum points against last-placed Central Coast.
A win would lift them to equal sixth, although their main rivals in the race for the play-offs - Adelaide, Western United and Western Sydney - all have games in hand.
"We knew we've got four cup finals, if you like, leading into the end of the season," Miller said. "If we want to have any opportunity to be in the play-offs post-season, we need to win four games.
"And even with that, it's out of our hands.
"So all we do is take care of us. We've done the first job. It's first hurdle done. We'll put that on the backburner and focus on tomorrow night, which will be the biggest game of our season."
Seven points adrift of second-last Melbourne City, the Mariners appear certain to become the first A-League team to suffer the indignity of three successive wooden spoons.
But coach Alan Stajcic promised they would rise to the challenge of winning the 50th F3 derby.
"It's obviously an important game for them and it's an important game for us, in terms of restoring a little bit of pride in our season and in the way we've been going, so it's extremely important for both," Stajcic said.
"For Newcastle, it's really big. If they have to win every game to get in the finals, we would take no greater pleasure than trying to knock them out of the finals race, so it's going to be a great contest."
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