Ernie Merrick has bemoaned a lack of front-third quality after his side’s Hyundai A-League playoff hopes further diminished with a 3-1 home loss to the Central Coast Mariners.
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The Wellington Phoenix coach cut a frustrated figure after watching another toothless performance from his strike-force.
“I just don’t think we have quality strikers,” said Merrick.
“We don’t have experience up front. I thought Joel (Stevens) and Blake (Powell) had good games but strikers get measured on goals scored. Mikey (McGlinchey) could get forward a bit more. The quality of the football was very good. The quality of goalscoring was very poor.
“I was very impressed with the way the boys played, particularly in defence and midfield. All the playing stats are overwhelmingly in favour of us. Coming in at half-time I couldn’t understand how we hadn’t scored a goal or two, but that’s the nature of the game.”
A two-goal sucker-punch from the Mariners shortly after half-time drove a knife through the Phoenix’s chances of all three points in front of a raucous Canterbury crowd.
“The first goal was a mistake by our goalkeeper which is very rare, the second goal was another mistake and the third goal we thought was offside. We pay a price for little errors, but when you dominate and spend so much time in the opposition half and in the attacking third, you have to have something to show for it,” said Merrick.
And the Phoenix mentor admitted the loss dealt a significant blow to his side’s already slim chances of making the top six.
“It’s a big blow. To be beaten 3-1 by the bottom team in the league in that sort of fashion is soul-destroying. It’s huge.
“I’m pretty disappointed that we let our fans down. The people of Christchurch came out in good numbers and because we can’t score goals, we let them down.
“They would have enjoyed some of the football but the bottom line is winning and we haven’t been able to do that again,” said Merrick.
The Phoenix meet Perth Glory in Wellington next Sunday, and while they’ll welcome back Andrew Durante and Vince Lia from suspension, they will be without Albert Riera who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season to earn a one-match ban.