Kevin Muscat has hailed the timely emergence of Elvis Kamsoba as Melbourne Victory continue to negotiate the injury speed bumps blighting their A-League campaign.
A 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix in Auckland leaves the second-placed defending champions prone to being passed by Sydney FC later in round 19 and potentially falling nine points behind leaders Perth.
Not helping their cause has been an unenviable mid-season injury toll, which is gradually dissipating.
Friday's penalty goal scorer Keisuke Honda came off the bench for a second game after two months out but the Japanese marquee man is confident he can start in next week's derby against Melbourne City.
Defender Georg Niedermeier started for the first time in two months while Muscat is hopeful Swedish striker Ola Toivonen can return next week.
Muscat handed a maiden start to teenage midfielder Anthony Lesiotis and James Donachie made his first appearance since returning to Victory on loan, replacing Niedermeier in the second half.
However, it was Victory's third signing in the January-transfer window, Kamsoba, who grabbed most attention in the open spectacle at Eden Park.
The left-sided midfielder was a constant menace, sparking numerous attacks in a manner similar to his match-winning heroics two weeks ago, when his bench appearance against Central Coast helped rectify a two-goal deficit.
"I think everyone here appreciated he was the most exciting player on the pitch," Muscat said of a player who has developed rapidly since being plucked from the NPL.
"Normally it takes them a good six months to get up to speed in terms of conditioning, what's required. Within a month, six weeks, we thought his progress has been that rapid.
"He'll keep working and he'll become a bigger threat."
Kamsoba's place will come under threat if Muscat can get all his stars fit but the Burundi-born speedster will remain an invaluable asset once Victory's Asian Champions League duties begin to bite from next month.
"We've always said it'll be very important when the time comes that a lot of players have got a lot of game time," Muscat said.
The coach was pleased with the number of chances his team created in Auckland and said it was Victory's best performance in their three draws this season against the improved Wellington outfit.
He described the crowd of nearly 24,000 and venue as "outstanding".
It was a far cry from the club's last trip to Auckland three years ago, when Muscat slammed the state of QBE Stadium following a loss to Wellington, describing the surface as "green sand".