FIT-AGAIN Ramy Najjarine will get a chance to prove he can spark the Newcastle Jets' attack in the final four games of the A-League campaign.
But coach Craig Deans confirmed that the struggling club is working to add quality to the front third next season.
A controversial penalty consigned the Jets to a 1-0 defeat to arch rivals the Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Again it was a game of small margins.
With the game in the balance, Jets midfielder Angus Thurgate was adjudged to have bundled over Daniel Bouman from the slightest of touches as the Mariners winger chased a throw-in across the front of the box.
The VAR intervened and took an eternity before ruling the penalty would stand.
"We have been making errors to concede goals in previous games and I don't think there was an error," frustrated Jets coach Craig Dean said. "There was an error but I don't think it was by one of our players. It was not a nice way to lose a game.
"There is going to be a lot of penalties if the consistency is there in games this week and next week and all the way through."
Mariners coach Alen Stajcic empathised with Deans and said the decision could have gone either way - but noted given there was contact, it would have been difficult for the VAR to overrule the decision.
Controversial decision aside, Deans was again left to lament a host of missed chances.
Jason Hoffman was denied by the quick reaction of Mariners keeper Mark Birighitti to rush of is line in the third minute. Nigel Boogaard flashed a header over the bar, Roy O'Donovan had a rocket tipped high, Valentino Yuel was one-on-one with the keeper.
Overall, the Jets crafted 15 shots on goal to the Mariners' eight, had 52 per cent of the ball, were camped in the Mariners' half for 56 per cent of the game, delivered 29 balls into the visitor's penalty box to 11 and completed five crosses to nil.
"It is disappointing again to be sitting here losing by just the one goal and having enough moments in the game to score and get something out of it," Deans said. "Once we went behind, I thought we reacted quite well. Again we had moments in the last 15 minutes to nick something and we didn't do it."
Stajcic conceded that the Mariners were "out-played" in the opening 45 minutes.
"It was probably our ugliest win of the year," he said. "I thought Newcastle shaded the first half. They had the better of the ball and territory. It was the second time we have been outplayed in the past 10 games. It only takes one moment to win a game, whether it is a decision or a good action. The boys worked hard to get it."
Najjarine, playing his first game in three weeks after a third ankle injury, provided some deft touches and opened the game with defence-splitting passes.
"We have missed him," Deans said. "I think he has missed seven games now. He has missed a lot of football which is a shame because I think we saw in the half hour he was on the pitch, the ability he has to change a game and the quality we are talking about.
"But again, the final effort or final pass or final touch to score a goal is not quite there. His is probably rustiness and lack of football."
Najjarine is on loan from runaway leaders Melbourne City.
The Jets meanwhile face a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
The defeat to the Mariners was an all too familiar story for a Jets outfit that has lost nine games by a goal and had five draws.
"Most of the questions this season are about not taking chances when they come," Deans said. "There has been 12,13,14 games now with a similar outcome to tonight. It is about having quality at the right moments.
"We are working hard behind the scenes to bring in the right players for next year. We had a very difficult off-season and it was hard to sign players. We got the best we could at the time. The players we have here have tried their hardest. Nights like tonight, when there is a bit of pressure and it's a derby game, that is when you need your quality players to stand up and we missed the mark.
"We have been looking for the last three months at Australian-based players and players overseas. It is a matter of putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together. It is quite obvious that we have to improve the quality."