Ernie Merrick was left casting an envious eye towards his opposition strikers after watching the Wellington Phoenix slump to a 2-1 loss to Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium.
Andy Keogh and Diego Castro scored goals for the visitors and the Phoenix mentor was fulsome in his praise of the red-hot Glory front two afterwards.
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“To me, the difference (today) was the quality of the players up front and the service to those players,” said Merrick.
“Keogh and Castro are the types of players you know you can give the ball to and they’re not going to lose it. Then their midfielders – Harold, Sandor, Vadocz and Garcia – are coming through; (it) makes a huge difference when you’ve got two quality players like that with runners coming through.”
And Merrick conceded his side were unable to contain the pair.
“When we lost the ball, the two players we knew could hurt us who we wanted marked throughout the game were Castro and Keogh. But it didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t keep players on those two and they ran the show up front.”
“We worked on it all week and we had a plan. I think sometimes in the heat of the moment, with the distractions and movement of players, inexperienced players just have trouble doing the job they were trained to do. When we lost (Andrew) Durante it was even more difficult,” he said.
Merrick was also impressed by the desire of Keogh.
“I was watching (him) and he wasn’t getting the service he wanted and he was really abusing the midfielders. I think we need a bit of that sometimes, but we’re a pretty quiet bunch and no-one confronts. (Finding) the determination to win with inexperienced players is pretty tough.”
By contrast, Merrick again bemoaned a lack of front-third potency by his side.
“In the middle of the pitch we had far more possession and more entries into the front third and as many into the penalty box but we never looked like creating or scoring. We didn’t have many chances at all and ended up with a fullback (Tom Doyle) scoring,” he said.
Durante was replaced at half-time by Dylan Fox after picking up a knee injury which places him in doubt for Easter Monday’s clash away at Melbourne City. Doyle will definitely miss that match after picking up his eighth yellow card of the season.