NEWCASTLE JETS are inching closer to fixing their troublesome defensive woes, according to skipper Ruben Zadkovich.
The Jets' defensive headaches surfaced again, leaking three goals in their one-goal loss to Melbourne Victory in Melbourne on Friday night.
Marco Rojas's second goal for Melbourne, and his team's third, was the 26th goal to land in the back of the Jets' net this year - the most of any A-League team.
Zadkovich said his young side were improving. ''It's a learning curve. It's definitely improved and we're getting better but it's still a work in progress,'' he said. ''We just have to be a little bit smarter and if we do that we're fine. We've leaked far too many goals. I think we are a little naive in the way we defend.''
The loss means Newcastle will end this year outside the top six with five wins, a draw and seven losses.
Zadkovich said his team could take some solace in regrouping from a 2-0 deficit to draw level, before a Rojas match-winner in the 75th minute, just two minutes after Emile Heskey had equalled the scores.
''It's important that when you're down you don't drop your heads. A few times this year that even when we've been down we don't give up and the young boys are taking a shining to the attitude we're trying to instill,'' Zadkovich said. ''It would have been easy for us to go into our shells.
''It was a little bit frustrating but there were a lot of positives.''
The skipper led the resurgence, belting a 25-metre strike past Victory keeper Nathan Coe to land the Jets first goal in the 64th minute.
''Close your eyes and have a shot,'' Zadkovich said of his goal.
''I like shooting from a distance.''
Newcastle will ring in the new year in Melbourne after staying in the Victorian capital to prepare for last-placed Melbourne Heart on Tuesday.
The two teams drew 3-3 when they last met on November 24 with the Heart 3-2 losers in their last start, against Wellington.