|By LUKE SHEEHAN
Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond said he will continue to invest in his youth, after a brave 3-2 defeat to Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Friday.
It was the Jets' fourth loss in their past five A-League encounters, but van Egmond was looking at the positives from the match - especially considering they arrested a two-goal deficit to draw level, only to be denied by a superb goal from Marco Rojas.
And the Jets boss said he would continue to put his faith in youth, pointing out James Virgili, Craig Goodwin, Connor Chapman, Sam Gallaway, Josh Brillante and Mark Birighitti were all 21 years of age or younger, but stressing that it was all about learning curves for his side.
"I'm very happy with what we have, we've got to keep on working with these younger boys, because as you can see, they're getting better week in, week out now," van Egmond said.
"The likes of Virgili, who's 20 (years old), Goodwin 21, Chapman 18, Gallaway 20, Brillante 19, Birighitti 21... we're committed to the younger ones.
"What we need to do, as I said, is you've got to keep working with them. It takes time for them to become a real good player, not from the technical aspect, but more from the game awareness side of things."
With Virgili, van Egmond was particularly impressed. The winger was the busiest of his side's attackers in the first half, and kept Victory on their toes just when the hosts appeared like they were gaining any sort of ascendancy.
"I'm happy with James so far this year. From where he was last year to this year he's really come on, and again, he's by far not the finished product, but he's definitely moving in the right direction and we just have to keep working with him," he said.
"He's got to concentrate a lot on the final ball... there's got to be an outcome. Sometimes he does some really good things, but there might not be an outcome. And if he's got the opportunity [he needs] to ensure the quality of the pass, and the decision of the pass, is the right one."
Van Egmond said he was hoping to get defensive midfielder and captain Jobe Wheelhouse back on the park for their home clash against Adelaide United next Saturday, despite the 27-year-old failing to train a full session with the squad in his recovery from a right knee injury.