Culina: Victory are the benchmark

Newcastle Jets coach Branko Culina has declared Melbourne Victory the A-League's benchmark after his side suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to them at AAMI Park.

Newcastle Jets coach Branko Culina has declared Melbourne Victory the A-League's benchmark after his side suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to them at AAMI Park.

Brazilian striker Ricardinho's 90th minute goal denied the Jets what would have been at the least a deserved point from a match in which they enjoyed better periods of play and superior possession.

But the veteran tactician admitted it was Victory's ability to win those type of contests that made them such a formidable force.

"Melbourne Victory is a very good side. I'm not going to say they deserved to win because I thought we deserved something out of the game," Culina said.

"But I give them a lot of credit because it takes a good side to break us down. They were good enough to punish us, but when we are in that situation we're not able to punish other teams - that's the difference."

"To me they are the yardstick, not Brisbane. Brisbane is a good side. If you said to me who is the team you fear most playing in a grand final if we are good enough to play in one - I would say Melbourne Victory any time."

When quizzed on whether it gave him any solace that Newcastle generally had the better of Victory, if not the points, Culina replied: "We did it against Brisbane as well and got three draws."

"We're close, but not close enough - you get no credits - points are worth more than credit. At the end of the day if you don't get the points, you're not going to be where you want to be."

While it has been a rollercoaster season featuring numerous injuries and doubts surrounding the club's future before the intervention of mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, Culina is aiming high, declaring the Jets will be finals certainties.

"I know we are a good football team," Culina said.

"We'll be in the finals, I can assure you about that. We made it last year when we were up against it and were much worse off than this year. I think we've got a better team in spite of all the problems.''

"We genuine think we can make the top four, we still have plenty of games left, but you need to pick up the points - today a point would have been OK. You've got to pick up points on the road and we didn't. That's why I'm disappointed."

The Jets may have a tough decision to make in the new few weeks with Francis Jeffers coming to the end of his guest stint as a replacement for fellow Englishman Michael Bridges.

Culina admitted Bridges' recovery from a knee injury wasn't progressing as hoped and expressed his desire to keep the one-time England cap at the club.

"I don't know yet (about Jeffers), we would like him to stay, like to keep him until the end of the year," he said.

"I think Michael (Bridges) is a lot further down the track still, he needs more time. (Is he a write off for the rest of the season?) Possibly."