The Central Coast Mariners brought the Wellington Phoenix’ winning run to an end with a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night but coach Ernie Merrick remained upbeat.
The Central Coast Mariners brought the Wellington Phoenix- winning run to an end with a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night but coach Ernie Merrick remained upbeat.
The teams had to endure difficult conditions, with winds gusting up to more than 100km an hour, but still produced an exciting and watchable game.
The Phoenix always find the Mariners difficult opponents and the draw stretched their winless streak against the Central Coast side to 10 games.
Matt Simon opened the scoring for the visitors in the 16th minute but the teams went in level at the break with Kenny Cunningham, who improves game by game, shrugging off the attentions of Storm Roux to beat Liam Reddy with a lovely left-foot strike.
The Phoenix controlled the game for long periods in the second spell but couldn-t land the killer blow and almost lost the game when Glen Moss upended Trent Sainsbury in the area only for Daniel McBreen to blast the resulting spot kick high, wide and not so handsome.
Merrick thought his team deserved to win the game through their second-half efforts, but pointed out the credentials of the opposition.
“I don-t thnk we should forget we were playing the current champions who have been in four grand finals, Merrick said.
“When you are on a roll there is sometimes a tendency to take a few things for granted and get carried away with the moment.
“Yes, we have been gathering momentum and playing good football but we have to continue working hard.
“In the first half we were very sloppy. Our marking was poor and we weren-t getting out of our half as well as we normally do.
“After about 35 minutes we started to play; to knock the ball around in the attacking third and that is where the goal came from.
“In the second half we knocked the ball around well but we are still having problems with the final pass.
“Credit to Mariners in that their back four is well set up which makes the final pass difficult to find but we persisted and I thought we were unlucky not to get a winner.”
The home side did cause problems for the champions in the second spell but their progress was often stopped by illegal tactics.
“It is disappointing when you have players breaking through and getting scythed down as Albert Riera and Roy Krishna were.
“At the end Carlos (Hernandez) went through three players who all had a kick at him and we didn-t even get a free kick which, being on the edge of the penalty area, would have provided a good opportunity.
“We knew we were causing them problems because they were committing so many fouls.
“I think they got five yellow cards.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Michael Boxall, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Manny Muscat, Vince Lia, Albert Riera, Kenny Cunningham (Jason Hicks 72m), Carlos Hernandez, Jeremy Brockie (Tyler Boyd 58m), Stein Huysegems (Roy Krishna 79m).