Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has labelled his side's performance in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle as 'inept' despite doing enough to guarantee an Hyundai A-League finals berth.
The Victory were outplayed by the Jets throughout the match but showed plenty of tenacity to hang on in defence and find two goals, both to skipper Mark Milligan.
The hard-earned point means the Victory are now assured of playing in the post-season and are still in the hunt for a top two finish, but that fact was almost lost on Muscat who was seething at his side's display in the round 26 encounter.
“Before I get excited about the point to be honest my only thoughts are with the performance,” he said after the match.
“From our point of view it was a lacklustre, inept performance and one that is going to have to improve, and improve quickly because you can't start a game and give away possession as we did in the first half time and time again.
“We really want and push and win things. So from my perspective the performance was far more important than the point we got.”
Despite the fact the Victory have been involved in a heavy Asian Champions League campaign in recent weeks including a mid-week trip to Japan, Muscat said that was no excuse for his side's dour display.
“I don't buy into it to be honest,” he said.
“Yeah it is tough but so be it. I am not holding a gun to anyone's head to go out and play.
“If someone is tired they can put their hand up, if someone is fatigued or all the words that everyone wants to throw about, yeah it is tough, of course it is going to be tough, and you know what I want it to be tough next year as well because I want to be in the Champions League again.
“To get there, to be in those tough situations where ever game means something, it is a sign of having a little bit of success. And that is what we are all playing for. Ask every other team that hasn't got anything to play for what they would rather be doing.”
Muscat did admit that his side showed some grit to hang tough under a Newcastle onslaught and grind out a late point after Archie Thompson was brought down by Jets defender Josh Mitchell in the box.
“If we want to talk about result and a point and guaranteed finals now, yes we showed a little bit of character in the second half to actually have a go and we lifted the intensity, naturally, because there wasn't too much of it in the first half,” Muscat said.
“But to come away and get a result, get a point is great but it is the furthest thing from my mind.”
Muscat also took a parting shot at the Hunter Stadium pitch, which has recently been allocated three games in next year's Asian Cup, labelling it as embarrassing.
“We will take full responsibility for our performance but trying to play good football on that pitch is pretty bloody hard,” he said.
“The surface needs to be better at this level – it is as simple as that. It is embarrassing to be honest.”