Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna expects star striker John Aloisi to rebound in a big way in the return leg of the A-League major semi-final after a luckless night against Newcastle.
Aloisi could easily have scored a hat-trick in the Mariners' 2-0 loss at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.
Instead, the man whose penalty against Uruguay in November 2005 sent Australia to the World Cup and ended 32 years of heartbreak, walked away with just a yellow card, having missed from the spot, had a cracking free kick smash into the woodwork and been incorrectly denied a goal for offside.
Importantly for the Mariners' A-League finals campaign, the 31-year-old, who was booked for remonstrating over the offside call near the stroke of halftime, pulled up well after training just once in the lead up to the game because of a knee concern.
McKinna will now cross his fingers and toes hoping Aloisi comes through unscathed from the 10-day Socceroos camp and likely also the World Cup qualifier against Qatar on February 6.
The coach is confident a fit Aloisi can do some damage in the return leg in Gosford on February 10 as the Mariners chase a three-goal win to claim the tie and direct entry into the grand final.
"John's a pro, some games you just miss chances," McKinna said.
"He's said he's sorry for the boys about the penalty and then he's scalped the post with a perfect strike and then had a goal disallowed that we've been told was onside.
"So he cannot do any more than that. All strikers miss chances, and John will just come back.
"He's pulled up alright. He felt this was the best he felt in recent weeks and he'll go into the Socceroo camp and get physio and treatment and see if he scrubs up enough to play with them next Wednesday."
While losers on the night, the Mariners at least seemed to lay claim to a moral victory on the night after pre-game comments from Jets skipper Jade North that the minor premiers relied on the long ball and had "the worst passing game" in the league.
"The first five passes Newcastle had were all over the top to Joel Griffiths," noted McKinna.
"That comment just makes Jade look as though he's not watching the right games."
Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson added: "We definitely don't think we're the worst passing team in the league, and I think we probably showed that a bit (last night).
"We can knock the ball around well, and for a team like us, we create so many chances week in, week out, you can't do that just by booting the ball long and playing the long-ball game, so I'm not too sure which game he's been watching.
"Obviously that's Jade's opinion, it fired the boys up a bit, I guess."