NEWCASTLE Jets coach Rob Stanton will continue to invest in youth and has challenged the senior players in the squad to step up.
The Jets suffered a second consecutive loss, going down 2-0 to Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
Next is a date with unbeaten leaders Wellington Phoenix in the New Zealand capital on Saturday.
As he has done for the past four games, Stanton will continue to back his young brigade, believing the energy they bring is worth the odd mistake due to inexperience.
Centre-back Phil Cancar was dispossessed in the lead up to City's second goal.
Mark Natta also put the Jets under pressure with a couple of wayward passes playing out from the back.
"They are 22 and 21. You have to invest in them," Stanton said. "They are getting better and better every week.
"If I had an unlimited budget, I would have a senior centre-back next to them. To give them that support.
"Phil made a mistake, but he was still one of our better players. The pitch contributed to that mistake. More experienced players have a better touch and adapt to those conditions.
"Defensively, he made some good challenges.
"I have to keep exposing them and making them better. They have been quite good. It has just been a couple of mistakes.
"In and around the box, they have defended our zone really well."
After starting the season in the XI, the club's most senior men, foreigners Carl Jenkinson and Jason Berthomier and home-grown utility Jason Hoffman, have become peripheral figures. None have started since the 5-3 loss to Melbourne Victory in round two.
"It is not being disrespectful to the senior players," Stanton said. "I gave them an opportunity at the back and the intensity that was required, they dropped off."
Jenkinson, a former Arsenal defender and the Jets' most credentialed player, hasn't played a minute in the past four games.
"As a foreigner, we want more from Carl," Stanton said. "He is training well. Again, he has to fight for his position. He was in the squad against City but didn't get on. I'm looking at him more as a centre-back now."
Kosta Grozos and Brandon O'Neill have formed a strong partnership in midfield.
French midfielder Berthomier has played 24 minutes in the past three games.
"He has a knee issue, some inflammation," Stanton said. "The hard grounds have been a problem. His conditioning has dropped which has made it harder. He might have to have a little break so we can build him back up."
Hoffman, the club's most capped player with 214 A-League games, has also dropped down the pecking order.
The 34-year-old was interviewed in the Chairman's Lounge before the City game. Disappointed not to be on the teamsheet, the veteran said he had to work hard to regain his spot.
"Losers complain and mope around, winners get better. That is what I intend to do," he said.
The average age of the Jets starting side against City was just 23.
Although keeping faith in the young players, Stanton plans to make at least one change for the trip across the Tasman.
Apostolos Stamatelopoulos is expected to return to full training on Wednesday after sitting out the City loss with a hamstring complaint.
"We lost the game from two mistakes," Stanton said of their third loss of the season. "We had plenty of opportunities and control in the first half. We lacked the end product as well. Stamma didn't play. The bright side is that I gave Justin Vidic his first start and Archie Goodwin got another 30 minutes. That is two in a row for Archie.
"I thought Justin did really well. He is another player who I think can put his hand up again. He impressed with the way he held the ball up.
"Hopefully Stamma will train tomorrow. He thinks he will be good. If he is not 100 per cent, I'm not sure that I will risk him. But we do need him out there. He has scored a lot of our goals."
Stanton also hinted at a positional switch with Dane Ingham and Tom Aquilina, who started on the right side of midfield against City.
In a blow, home-grown winger Jacob Dowse is set to have an arthroscope on his knee and faces at least a month out.
"He has a problem with his meniscus," Stanton said. "We tried to avoid surgery because he has had a lot of surgeries. But it is still irritating him.
"We tried to manage him in the past few weeks, by changing the way he trains to see if we could get the swelling down. He was training OK and then had another setback. He had another scan and he will go in for a clean up and see if they can fix it that way."
Cal Timmins is also sidelined with a minor calf problem.
The A-League transfer window opens on January 14, but Stanton doubts that the club will be in a position to bring new players in unless a new owner is finalised.
"At this stage, with the ownership situation, it is probably not going to happen unless we get a serious injury," he said.
"There are four or five other boys in the youth team over time I want to bring up. There is a process we have to go through if we are going to develop players. I have set that up with [youth team coach] Damian Zane and we will start feeding them into the team at some stage."