A frustrated Ernie Merrick will be working hard with his midfield this week in training after the Wellington Phoenix drew 0-0 with Newcastle jets in front of over 9000 fans in Napier on Sunday.
As was the case in Sydney seven days earlier the Phoenix didn’t get their game going till the second half and but for sterling work from goalkeeper Glen Moss, along with defenders Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund, could have paid a heavy penalty.
Merrick again took a striker off at halftime, in this case Paul Ifill, and while his team improved markedly they couldn’t find the net.
“It was a very disappointing first half; almost a carbon copy of the previous week,” Merrick said.
“We were slow out of the blocks, struggled to hold possession, and kept playing square balls in the back third. When we lost it the Jets threatened our goal and had a couple of good chances.”
Phoenix talisman Carlos Hernandez was marked out of the game by Ben Kantarovski but still managed to hit the woodwork twice, once with a superb dipping drive.
Merrick paid tribute to Moss, Sigmund and Durante for keeping the Jets scoreless but said he couldn’t expect them to play that well every game.
“You can’t go out and only play for 45 minutes every week,” he said.
“The biggest problem in the first half was the transition of the ball from midfield to the strikers.
“There is no point having the good strikers we do if you can’t get the ball to them.
“We have to sort the midfield out before we play Victory away next week.
“Fix the midfield and we will score goals.”
Merrick had nothing but praise for the fans and those who organised the game in Hawke’s Bay.
“It was a fantastic crowd, a great venue and you even turned the weather on for us,” he said.
“We would love to come back and play another league game here.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Leo Bertos, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Reece Caira, Vince Lia (Jason Hicks 70m), Manny Muscat, Carlos Hernandez, Paul Ifill (Albert Riera 45m), Jeremy Brockie, Stein Huysegems (Kenny Cunningham 80m).