Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick refused to use New Zealand’s World Cup demise as a key reason for his side’s failure to hang on for a point against Sydney FC.
Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick refused to use New Zealand’s World Cup demise as a key reason for his side’s failure to hang on for a point against Sydney FC on Saturday night.
The Kiwi club appeared headed for a share of the spoils after scoring a late equaliser before they were hit on the break and punished by a 94th-minute winner from new Sky Blues striker Ranko Despotovic.
The 2-1 loss takes Wellington’s winless streak to six games but Merrick could easily have offered up fatigue as an excuse after the club provided seven players to New Zealand’s losing World Cup qualifying campaign against Mexico.
However, Merrick was having none of it.
“Everyone knows that the Phoenix loses players to the All Whites and we’ve done a lot of travelling – but it doesn’t matter,” Merrick said.
“They are full-time professionals – they can’t dwell on international matches – and I think they were keen to play and keen to play well.
“It was just one of those days. We had enough chances to win that game and we’ve only got ourselves to blame.
“We did enough tonight to win that game. If you don’t take your chances you can be punished like that.”
Phoenix squandered a number of gilt-edged opportunities before Kenny Cunningham flicked on a corner to level at 1-1 with three minutes remaining.
The visitors could have parked the bus and taken a point back across the Tasman but Merrick has no regrets about chasing maximum return.
He explained: “A draw wasn’t good enough for us. We weren’t going to sit back for a draw – we wanted to go for it at the end so if that cost us I’d rather do that.
“It was a disappointing result but a very good performance.
“We’re getting there. We’ve got plenty of time to get it right.”