HOW the Western Jets remained competitive with TAC Cup premiership aspirant Gippsland Power till deep into the third quarter of Saturday's game at the Morwell Football Ground is a head-scratcher.
Jets coach Steven Kretiuk was bemused when describing the damning statistics that should have provided mercy for his side much earlier than having to wait for the Power's eight-goal last term burst to put them out of their misery.
Kretiuk said he had not seen a more sloppy performance "in a long, long time" as his players failed to hit routine targets with their disposal.
"Our kicking was deplorable. We were sitting at about 40per cent effectiveness, which is nearly embarrassing. We were also at about 64per cent effectiveness with our handballs, which is terrible.
"I'm surprised we stayed in the game as long as we could with that sort of efficiency."
When the half-time siren sounded, the Jets were on track to record one of the shock results of the season.
They trailed by two points, but had more scoring shots and would have been leading had it not been for their wayward kicking. The game had a smell of the Jets' win a week earlier, when they shocked the Murray Bushrangers in a low-scoring, grind-it-out win.
They made a concerted effort to limit the Power's usually potent offence and did so for a half.
"We had a game plan that we thought would give us a chance to stay in the game for as long as possible," Kretiuk said.
"Like we did against Murray [a week earlier], we tried to restrict their goal scoring and scrounge enough goals to get over the line."
Disappointingly, the Jets went missing in the second half. When the Power turned up the intensity, the visitors were found wanting.
"You look at how guys respond when the heat is on and teams get a run on," Kretiuk said.
"Some players didn't have the inner drive or ruthlessness to get back to what worked in the first half.
"Against really good teams like Gippsland, you need to have a concerted four-quarter effort of the best possible footy you can play."
The big plus for the Jets was the performance of debutant Conor Ross.
He was entrusted with the task of negating dangerous Power forward Josh Scott and won the battle.
"We were rapt with his game," Kretiuk said. "His ability to stay in the contest and spoil and get his hands on the footy was impressive.
"It's a credit to him to be able to come in and have an impact on a really quality player."
Sam Critchley used the occasion for a belated return to form.
The key defender, so good in the opening month of the season, has been low on confidence in recent weeks, but showed how good he can be in a best-on-ground showing on Power forward Simon Deery, one of the best in the competition.
Big boys Scott Greenhough (36 hit outs) and Mark Orr (15) were important cogs in the Jets gaining near parity in the clearances.
The Jets have a week to assess their up-and-down form before a road trip to North Ballarat Rebels on July 28.