Merrick plays down Phoenix’s title hopes


Ernie Merrick says his Wellington Phoenix side aren’t letting their thoughts drift to a potential A-League title challenge after a landmark 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory on Sunday.

The New Zealand side twice came from behind at AAMI Park to register their first ever away win over Merrick’s old club.

The result means the fourth-placed Phoenix are now just three points behind league leaders Perth Glory and level on points with Victory and Adelaide United, who are second and third respectively.

Result: Melbourne Victory 2 Wellington Phoenix 3

However, the Scottish-born coach, himself a two-time title winner at the Big V, insisted his team aren’t getting carried away.

“We haven’t looked forward to the championship yet,” he said.

“It’s just about playing consistent football. The focus is on playing in the finals and if we can, being in the top four. 

“That’s what the players have set their objectives for, I’m not going to raise it any higher. Winning the championship is not in our mind at all.”

Merrick sought to play down the significance of beating Victory in Melbourne for the first time, choosing instead to focus on the achievement of downing one of the favourites to claim silverware.

“It’s always good to win, especially against such a good team,” he said when asked about ending that unwanted sequence.

“For me Victory are the best team in the league.

“I thought we got better and better in the second half. Our levels of fitness are extremely high. 

“Victory are a team that commit numbers forward, that’s why they score goals. But you have to leave yourself light on at the back to do that.”

Phoenix now have an opportunity to show they really mean business in the final weeks of the regular season when they play host to fellow challengers Adelaide United next weekend.