Culina: Jets lack focus

Jets coach Branko Culina has blamed a lack of focus for Newcastle's recent run of poor results culminating in a frustrating 2-1 loss to arch rivals Sydney FC in the F3 derby on Monday evening.

Jets coach Branko Culina has blamed a lack of focus for Newcastle's recent run of poor results culminating in a frustrating 2-1 loss to arch rivals Sydney FC in the F3 derby on Monday evening.

The Jets controlled most of the match but made two defensive blunders to allow Sydney to grab a 2-0 lead by half-time.

Culina instigated a number personnel, positional and formation changes in the second half and it almost paid off as substitute striker Labinot Haliti netted a goal in the 65th minute.

Newcastle attacked with venom in the remaining minutes and looked likely to get an equaliser but were thwarted by a combination of gritty Sydney defence, misfortune and lack of finishing.

It is the third loss in a row for the Jets, who had previously equalled a club record of seven matches unbeaten to climb from the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder into the top six.

Culina hinted that a number of off-field dramas including an unresolved contract negotiation with English import Francis Jeffers, who missed the last game of his 10-match guest stint through a groin injury, plus the announcement that key defender Ljubo Milicevic was standing down as captain because he was leaving the club at the end of the year, had caused the concentration of Jets players to waiver.

"There is no doubt that the focus wasn't quite there," Culina said after the loss to Sydney.

"We've had some off-field dramas and maybe we felt that we had down our job a few weeks ago. We went to Wellington and we were missing a few players but even allowing for that it was disappointing."

"Last week we went to Melbourne we played really well but we weren't focused for the full game."

"We have started conceding soft goals and when you concede soft goals you are always going to find it difficult."

Culina admitted that the early loss of Milicevic, who hobbled off the ground with an ankle injury in the 12th minute of the match, added to drama as newly appointed skipper Kasey Wehrman was forced to play in the central defensive role.

It was an errant back pass for Wehrman that led to Sydney's second goal through Bruno Cazarine right on the stroke of half-time.

"That (the positional change) wasn't the plan but sometimes when things aren't going well for you things seem to turn as well," Culina said. "It was whether Jobe (Wheelhouse) goes back or whether Kasey (Wehrman) goes back."

"Kasey has played their previously but in hindsight maybe Wheelhouse would have been better to have gone back because he is not as match fit and in the midfield there are more demands. And Kasey has also been quite a dominant force for us in the midfield."

"We re-adjusted in the second half but on the day we didn't either have the good fortune that you needed to have, I think we hit the post three or four times, nor did we have that little bit of quality that was required."

Culina admitted that the loss of Jeffers hindered the Jets attack and described the debut performance of new recruit Ryan Griffiths, who was substituted after 60 minutes, as 'quiet'.

"There is no doubt we missed Francis. He is a quality player who can create things, hold the ball up and bring other players into the play, but he is history now," he said.

"He (Griffiths) has looked sharp in training but he hasn't played for a few months and the A-League is much more demanding than the Chinese league - it is more intense and he needs to adjust."

"He's a fine footballer and that's why we got him but tonight's performance was one he can look at and say, 'I have that under my belt, I look forward to the future'.''