Merrick: Half-time changes lead to Wellington Phoenix rise

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick says a half-time tactical change was a key element that helped the Phoenix to a 4-1 triumph over the Central Coast Mariners.

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick says a half-time tactical change was a key element that helped the Phoenix to a 4-1 triumph over a Central Coast Mariners outfit who were listless in the second half on Friday evening.

Costa Rican duo Kenny Cunningham and Carlos Hernandez netted along-with Stein Huysegems and Jeremy Brockie as the New Zealanders overcame a one-goal deficit in style .

The win in Gosford restores the Phoenix to sixth spot on the A-League ladder, a position they had relinquished after a 5-0 loss to Melbourne Heart last weekend as they also recorded their first win on the Central Coast.

“I think a lot of people think coaches provide motivational speeches at half-time but what we really did was restructure, only slightly, our midfield,” said Merrick after the match.

“I thought we were pressing quite well in the first half but when we lost the ball we were getting caught on the break all the time so I had to move Vince (Lia) and Manny (Muscat) and Kenny a little bit.

“With Stein later on, we were switching Stein and Carlos so they were having turns each of playing number ten and that worked a treat because it was hard to pick the two of them up.

“I don’t think the opposition knew where they were, every time they got the ball it looked like they were going to do something.”

The final goal of the night came from an almost forgotten marksman as Brockie ended a run of lean form when he coolly iced the game from Huysegems incisive pass.

Merrick, though, believes some of Brockie’s troubles came from playing too much football as he lined up in the A-League and for the All Whites.

“Jeremy, to me, has been mentally exhausted this year,’ said Merrick.

“He played and had an outstanding season last year as second top (A-League) goal scorer, went straight to Toronto in the MLS (Major League Soccer) virtually missed our pre-season and how I was trying to set the boys up to play and it’s been up and down since.

“I think he is mentally exhausted, but he is getting back there now.

“I think he took his goal really well and he is a really good player.”

In praising Brockie’s ability to continue to play despite the workload of the last 18 months, Merrick questioned the value of loan deals for a player of Brockie’s age (26) and experience.

Merrick noted that Brockie is unlikely to spend further time on loan in the next A-League off-season.

“Loans are very good in very special circumstances when you get maybe a good up-and-coming young player that needs some game time but I’m not a big fan of loan players, either bringing in loan players or sending players out on loan,” he said.

Whilst the work in the attacking third was a focus on Merrick’s praise he did not miss out lauding All Whites shot-stopper Glenn Moss who made two key saves in the second half, both from Mile Sterjovski attempts, including a 54th-minute penalty.

“That was very important because when a team scores a goal they get their tails up and they start knocking the ball around and we were the ones that got our tails up after the save,” said Merrick.

“I think Glenn is a quality goal-keeper and he is having a great season this year.

“It’s very impressive when someone like him, when you concede five goals and they are not your fault you have still got to have the mental fortitude to rebound back from that and I think he proved himself a really professional and a very good goalkeeper tonight.”

Despite having won the match convincingly, Merrick was somewhat bemused at the scenario which led to the penalty decision in the 52nd minute.

“We couldn’t quite work out why there was a penalty when our player was fouled, as in Reece Caira, and it (the ball) seems to have hit Durante’s hand.

“It was a strange call, but the silly thing was it looked like the goal-keeper was down on the right -hand side waiting on the ball arriving on the penalty save.

“I couldn’t quite work that out either.”

Wellington next face the Reds in Adelaide on Thursday evening.