Soccer: Merrick shuffles bench for Mariners

By Daniel Richardson

The Phoenix had a slight injury concern around Carlos Hernandez but the midfielder has come through the week well. Photo / Getty
The Phoenix had a slight injury concern around Carlos Hernandez but the midfielder has come through the week well. Photo / Getty

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has turned to his fountain of youth with a bench shake-up for tomorrow night's away clash with the Central Coast Mariners in Sydney.

The catch-up game, which was rescheduled due to the All Whites' intercontinental World Cup playoff against Mexico last month, shapes as Wellington's next chance to score their first win of the A-League season.

Following last Saturday's 2-1 defeat to the league-leading Brisbane Roar, Merrick has moved Michael Boxall, Josh Brindell-South and Jason Hicks out of the match-day squad, although the starting XI isn't likely to change.

"I'll freshen up the bench to blood some new youngsters,'' Merrick said. "I'll be bringing in Tyler Boyd, Matthew Ridenton and another youngster I'll be bringing in is Leo Bertos.''

Merrick is of course joking when referencing Bertos as part of the young brigade given the All Whites veteran turns 32 on Friday.

But Ridenton is only 17 and can't legally buy his first beer until March, while Boyd is 18 and will celebrate his 19th birthday on December 30.

Their elevation in to the squad is a clear ploy by Merrick to give his side some punch from the pine, while veteran Paul Ifill will also likely start the game on the bench given his best work this season has been as an impact player.

There were slight injury concerns around midfielders Carlos Hernandez and Albert Riera but both have come through the week well.

Merrick said at the beginning of the season he wanted eight or nine games to assess how the team would shape up and following nine games they've lost five and drawn four.

Despite the dire results and the fact they sit just above last place on the A-League ladder, Merrick wasn't bothered.

"Panicking? That's not a word in my vocabulary,'' the Scotsman said. "It's a continual work in progress. We are creating chances, we've got to score them. I understand that we have got to make the finals and it's tough to make the finals if you lose points and don't pick up the full three points but there's still 54 points to play for. But I'm pretty keen to get a win, but not just one win, several wins.''

Central Coast, traditionally one of the league's most consistent sides, were soundly beaten 4-0 by Adelaide United last week and haven't hit their stride this summer.

They've only mustered nine goals from as many games and sit in sixth on the points table as they come to terms with a coaching change after Graham Arnold announced his departure last month with former assistant Phil Moss taking over.

Tomorrow's game marks the first A-League fixture to be played at North Sydney Oval.

- APNZ

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