UNFLAPPABLE coach Ernie Merrick is adamant the equation remains the same for the Newcastle Jets - win three games and they will play finals football.
The Jets missed a golden opportunity to close within two points of the top six after going down 3-2 to the Central Coast Mariners in a thrilling F3 derby at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The upset loss to the cellar dwellers left the Jets five points behind sixth-placed Adelaide, who lost 2-0 to Perth on Friday.
"I said to the boys before the Mariners game 'there are six games left, if we win three of them, we will be in the finals'," Merrick said. "Now we have five games to win three games. Maybe win three and get a draw, something like that. We have made it more difficult for ourselves. In two weeks' time we play Wellington which becomes a crucial game."
After Wellington, the Jets are at home to Wanderers, face consecutive road trips to Perth and Brisbane before hosting Sydney FC.
The Jets dominated large periods against the Mariners. But incredibly, after a scoreless first half, they gave up three goals before rebounding to nearly snatch an equaliser at the death.
The home side had 66 per cent of the ball, hit the woodwork twice, had a goal disallowed for encroachment and fired 24 shots to five.
"It was a strange game in the way it ended, but we let ourselves down in the first half," Merrick said. "We had more than enough chances to score the first goal. We had numerous chances, hit the post, and if we had scored then, I think it would have been a different result. That is the way we were playing at the beginning of the season and losing games.
"Recently, we have kept clean sheets and have been scoring. But we didn't score in the first half which made it difficult. In the second half, once we scored one it looked like they would collapse a little bit. We could have got the equaliser with the penalty, but it wasn't to be. I could look for 1000 excuses. The break between games, the Olyroos being away, the weather...the bottom line is that we dominated the first half and had nothing to show for it. Even if we get in the finals, you can't play like that. You won't last very long."