Coach Gary van Egmond says Newcastle need to sharpen up in the front third if they’re to be serious A-League contenders this season.

Newcastle need to find that killer instinct in front of goal, coach Gary van Egmond feels, if they’re to be serious A-League contenders this season.

The Jets suffered their first loss at home this campaign, going down 1-0 to last year’s minor premiers Western Sydney at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

A win would have taken them to second spot on the ladder but instead they sit in a mid-table logjam in fifth.

While disappointed with the defeat, Van Egmond was left heartened by the side’s improvement since their last clash with the Wanderers in March.

That day the Wanderers comprehensively beat the Jets to claim the Premiers’ Plate.

“I think as a squad if we look at where we were last season where we got beaten 3-0 compared to tonight I think there’s big, big improvements,” he said.

“I think we played some excellent football in patches.”

But the coach has pinpointed attack as an area that still needs more work.

With both Nathan Burns and marquee man Emile Heskey ruled out of Saturday’s match with knee complaints, the Jets lacked fire power up front.

But while van Egmond is hopeful both will return to face Brisbane next week, he says with or without them the side needs to sharpen up in front of goal.

“We definitely need to work on that front third,” he said.

“We’re getting into good positions to deliver the ball so … it’s a case of making sure we can find that killer pass and that we’re getting our head up to make sure we find that pass at the right time.

“We still have to get better when it comes to quality and when it comes to making decisions and taking chances.”

With defender Scott Neville ruled out of the rest of the season with a knee injury, Van Egmond is allowed an injury replacement.

But instead of looking to replace the right-back he intends of bolster the attacking stocks in the upcoming January transfer window with the likes of Wanderers winger Youssouf Hersi on his hit list.

Van Egmond also hopes to be able to hang on to Burns, who is on loan from Incheon United, and confirmed talks are still ongoing with the Korean club.

“The club is in contact with Incheon and hopefully we’ll find out sooner rather than later,” he said.