The Newcastle Jets gave up another early goal and again paid the price for sloppy defending in a 2-0 loss to Western United at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
After showing plenty of steel in back-to-back draws, the Jets slipped back into their old ways.
They went behind in the 12th minute through an own-goal to Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Then, just as the visitors started to threaten in the second half, Dylan Pierias added a second for Western United in the 69th minute to kill the game.
It was the Jets' 12th loss of the campaign and the 10th time they have given up the first goal - six of those have come inside eight minutes.
The Jets battled hard until the end. Substitute Jason Hoffman was denied twice by good saves from Ryan Scott but it was a case of too little too late.
In a further blow, Roy O'Donovan picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign and is suspended for the clash against Melbourne City on Thursday night.
Matt Millar, who was one of the Jets' best, said they strugglers had to stay positive.
"There were some good signs but again it came down to those moments in both boxes," Millar said. "We are creating good chances and not punishing teams and at the other end we have to stop giving away goals. Clean sheets give you a chance to win game.
"We have to try and stay positive. We say it every week, but the only way we can go forward is build on performances. We had two good results and stopped the losing run. We have to stay positive and try to kick on."
As expected, Steve Ugarkovic came into the Jets midfield for Ramy Najjarine (ankle). Hoffman and Johnny Koutroumbis returned from injury off the bench.
Western United coach Mark Rudan made three changes from the 1-all draw with Wellington. Josh Risdon, Lachy Wales and Steve Lustica were the fresh faces.
Western United scored inside a minute in their 1-0 won over the Jets on April 5.
This time it took them 12 to open their account. Lachy Wales made a run in behind and fired a first-time cross across the box. Topor-Stanley got his foot to the ball but only managed to direct it into the right corner.
Besart Berisha thought he had doubled the lead in the 27th minute when he headed home an Alessandro Diamanti freekick only to be flagged for offside.
Pierias and Wales were constant threats with their pace down each flank for the home side.
In a sign of the Jets diminished confidence, they wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 36th minute. Apostolos Stamatelopoulos swooped on a wayward pass and found O'Donovan. With Western United stretched, the Irishman dwelled on the ball before returning a pass to his striker partner and allowed the defence to recover.
They had a couple of other half chances but didn't force a save from Scott in the first half.
The visitors played with more aggression after the break, but, in the story of their season, the final pass or shot eluded them.
Craig Deans' football staff is set to be boosted with the arrival of Karl Dodd as assistant coach. The 40-year-old former defender has spent the past three years as the national coach of Guam and resigned earlier this month due to family reasons.
Dodd is expected to join the Jets once his quarantine period is over in what will be his second stint in Newcastle.
He was the Jets' strength and conditioning coach in 2013 under Gary van Egmond. Deans was van Egmond's assistant at the time.
The Queenslander had previously trialed with the Jets in 2009.
Dodd also has a long association with Jets youth team coach Daniel McBreen, going back to their playing days in Scotland at Falkirk and in the A-League with North Queensland. McBreen has also been an assistant coach with Guam.
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