Opportunity knocks for quartet

They might be regarded as Victory's generation next, but Petar Franjic, Mate Dugandzic, Diogo Ferreira and Matthew Foschini are playing their part right here and now.

They might be regarded as Victory's generation next, but Petar Franjic, Mate Dugandzic, Diogo Ferreira and Matthew Foschini are playing their part right here and now.

The emerging quartet are living proof of the old adage "opportunity knocks" after featuring in Victory's push for the Hyundai A-League finals which was achieved with a 2-0 win over Newcastle at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

And the fantastic four were joined by a fifth member for the Jets game with Luke Pilkington making his second top-flight appearance of the season from the bench.

The absence of regulars such as Archie Thompson, Kevin Muscat, Billy Celeski, Matthew Kemp, Robbie Kruse and Surat Sukha at periods during the past six weeks saw coach Ernie Merrick gamble on his younger players.

And the dividends have been rich with the Victory rarely skipping a beat, losing just two of their past 14 matches and winning their last three.

During the winning run, Victory has kept three clean sheets with a defence including 18-year-old Franjic, who only made his A-League debut against Sydney FC on January 15.

A tall, elegant central defender, Franjic was one of Victory's best against the Jets in only his third appearance at the top level, much to the delight of coach Merrick.

"Considering he's not really had a lot of game time until these three matches Petar has been quite outstanding," Merrick said.

"He looks very safe and secure, a couple of times in the first half he went on mazy runs all the way. (He's) a pretty confident lad, you can see why he played for Australia at under-17 level and captained them at one stage."

Dugandzic is the most experienced member of generation next with 25 appearances under his belt and five goals for the season, including a valuable brace in Victory's 2-0 Australia Day win over North Queensland.

Along with fellow 21-year-old Ferreira, a pacy versatile right-sided player capable of playing in defence or in midfield, Dugandzic has taken his game to another level when handed a starting berth in recent weeks.

Foschini, the son of former St Kilda and South Melbourne rover Silvio, has been the captain of Victory's youth team and been solid when drafted into the first team to play at right back.

Pilkington, best known as the winner of the Foxtel reality TV show Football Superstar, made his return to the top level for the first time in 4 months against the Jets with seven minutes and like last year may find himself and the next generation featuring in Victory's Asian Champions League campaign.

Apart from Pilkington, the four other rising stars are Victorian products, something Merrick touched upon when directly quizzed about his emerging talent.

"Petar came through Melbourne Knights, they did a good job with him, Diogo Ferreira, Matthew Foschini and Mate Dugandzic, those boys have come through Premier League clubs and now Luke Pilkington, they've developed through our youth team," Merrick said.

"We feel they're ready to go and I think we've got some good youngsters for the future right here."

Victory have a nine-day break between matches before their final regular season clash against Adelaide United at the Adelaide Oval on February 11.