They may have let victory and a top-six spot on the A-League ladder slip in the dying minutes but Sydney FC coach Frank Farina was heartened by his much-improved outfit after their 2-2 draw with Newcastle on Saturday night.
Sydney looked to have wrapped up the the three points, which would have lifted them to fifth place, until a Ryan Griffiths penalty in the 89th minute forced them to settle for a draw.
The Sky Blues, missing a host of regular starters, opened the scoring in the 12th minute through Alessandro Del Piero, with teammate Blake Powell getting the second in the 57th.
But late drama, which led to skipper Terry McFlynn being sent-off for a handball, ensured Griffiths, who scored the first-half equaliser also through a penalty, got the point for the Jets at a rain and wind-lashed Hunter Stadium.
The Jets stretched their unbeaten streak to five matches to stay in fifth place while the Sky Blues remain eighth.
"Looking back it is a hard one to take," Farina admitted.
"Before the game, if you asked me, we would have settled for a point but to concede that late and another penalty was disappointing."
Sydney appeared undeterred by their depleted squad.
Defenders Tiago Calvano and Fabio were both suspended alongside striker Joel Griffiths. Speedy Panamanian attacker Yairo Yau was away on national duty while Brett Emerton and Jason Culina were injured.
Sydney were dealt a savage blow on the eve of Saturday's match after new signing Griffiths was given a three-match ban for abusing an assistant referee in last Saturday's defeat by Melbourne Victory.
Farina admitted he was furious at Friday's decision and, while refusing to discuss the matter, revealed he planned to appeal the suspension.
Farina was however encouraged by the side's performance in the face of such instability and felt they'd come leaps and bounds since he took the reins in round nine.
"I'm very proud and pleased with the performance of the boys who came in," he said.
"We've come a fair way in 10 weeks.
"The last time we were here (2-1 loss in round 12) ... we were pretty ordinary so this performance was much better than that.
"We've been really destabilised by injury and suspensions ... but in terms of effort, fitness and eagerness I've been very pleased and we've improved on that game by game."
Jets coach Gary van Egmond admitted his side didn't have their best day.
"Yeah I do feel lucky to have gotten away with that," he said.
"I was disappointed with the performance but we did show tremendous character to get something out of it."
- Fairfax Media
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