Merrick taking positives from last-gasp result


Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has remained upbeat despite a fourth straight game without a win in the Hyundai A-League.

The Phoenix needed an injury-time equaliser from Jason Hicks to grab a share of the points in a 2-2 draw with the Newcastle Jets at the Hutt Recreation Ground.

“I thought it was a tremendous display of football without the finishing”, said Merrick.

“We had 20-odd shots, a lot from inside the box, double the number of passes the opposition had, and despite 28 free-kicks against us, we played a great game of attacking football.”

“We had more than enough chances to win the game. The boys are really dejected, but I’m not. I’ve patted them on the back. Just because that final touch didn’t go in, that doesn’t mean we didn’t play some terrific football.”

Merrick remained defiant in the face of a third straight game in which chances have flowed, but goals haven’t.

“(I’ll be concerned) when we’re not creating chances and we’re creating more than ever. We created a lot against the Wanderers, even more against Melbourne City and now far more again.”

“You’ve got to look at our performance over all the games in a season. We’re still one of the top goalscorers in the league. Our fitness is really strong, our passing is first-class and we’ve been in the top four now for several weeks. But it’s frustrating when we don’t score goals and there’s no-one more frustrated than the team, but there are too many positives to ignore.”

The point gained from the draw keeps the Phoenix in fourth spot ahead of what shapes as a crucial three-game stretch against the sides occupying the spots above them on the A-League ladder.

“Because we conceded two cheap goals, we get a bit disappointed, but apart from that we never really looked under pressure apart from that header that hit the post in the first half.”

“We’re in a good place. If you told me at the beginning of the season where we’d be, how many goals we’d have scored and how we’d be playing, I’d have been very happy. I take a lot of positives from that and it must have been an exciting game for the crowd.”

The Phoenix next face Melbourne Victory away next Sunday.