Sydney FC's failure to fill its 20-man roster may prove the club's ultimate downfall this season as the talent-laden but undermanned Blues again face a player crisis during the A-League finals.
Despite beating Newcastle 2-1 in the first leg of the elimination semi-final on Friday night, Sydney coach Terry Butcher was again left to bemoan his side's lack of playing numbers with key midfielder Terry McFlynn (groin injury) ruled out for the rest of the finals series.
Injuries and suspensions have ravaged the defending champions all season, but Sydney has only itself to blame for its chronic roster shortage after finding room for just 17 fulltime players under the salary cap.
McFlynn's loss will be covered somewhat by the return of midfielder Ufuk Talay from suspension for next Friday's return leg in Newcastle.
But with defender Alvin Ceccoli (foot) still in doubt, Sydney will again likely be understaffed at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
"It's not an excuse, it's a fact, with a 17-man squad it is very, very difficult," Butcher said.
"When the team sheets come through and you see that every team you play against has 20 players and we only have the 17, with one or two unavailable, it hurts me.
"The players respond to the task very, very well.
"But say we get through to the grand final, we could end up with injuries and suspensions and only 13 players available and that's farcical.
"These players have had to do a sterling job because of the lack of numbers.
"That's our fault, that's self imposed by the club. But at the end of the day it's very, very difficult."
Alex Brosque and Mark Milligan gave Sydney a 2-0 lead after just 30 minutes on Friday with a pair of headed goals - both set up by Steve Corica - before Milton Rodriguez claimed a crucial away goal in the 71st.
Brosque and Milligan received yellow cards later in the match and will have to walk a fine line during the rest of Sydney's finals campaign with another booking bringing a one-match ban.
McFlynn, who only days ago re-signed for three years with the club, is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines and was a telling loss for the Blues on Friday.
"Ironically, it was the last header of the first half, and he's actually gone up for the header and he's landed awkwardly and felt it snap," Butcher said.
"It looks as though the muscle's come away from the bone, so you're talking quite a long period for that."
While a draw will be enough in the return match to book a preliminary final berth, Butcher said it wasn't in his players fabric to sit back and just play defensive.
"The plan is to go up there and play the way we did on New Year's Day where we won 2-0," he said.
"We want to be positive, we know Newcastle is a good side, it will be a huge crowd, great atmosphere ... but these are the games the boys love to play in and enjoy.
"We've got so many forward players in our team, I think it's impossible to say we're going to sit back and take a draw."