Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Football: Phoenix coach runs out of patience with excuses

Wellington Phoenix FC coach Ernie Merrick. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Wellington Phoenix FC coach Ernie Merrick. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Ernie Merrick isn't buying into the cliches.

The Wellington Phoenix have stuttered and stalled through the past five rounds of the A-League, collecting two points from five games, but their coach claims tonight's match against the troubled Newcastle Jets isn't a "season definer", nor is it "must win".

The Phoenix sit seventh on the A-League ladder, two points above the Jets and one point below Adelaide United, but they haven't won a game on the road since October 18 in Perth.

"We want to win, but we've got half a season to keep winning consistently," Merrick said.

"It will never come down to one or two games until the last game of the season, really.

"We have to win consistently now and get rid of these excuses about being away from home or being short of players due to injury or suspension.

We have a good enough squad to win games."

On paper, the match at Hunter Stadium shapes up as a potential dud. The Phoenix have scored only four goals in their past seven away games, while the Jets are yet to score a goal in the opening hour of a home game this season.

But if the Phoenix are serious about making the playoffs, they need to break out of their away funk. Merrick knows the tide needs to start turning soon.

"The key area for us is that top third," he said. "We'll be making sure our possession turns into goal-scoring opportunities. I'll be pushing more attacking midfielders forward against Newcastle.

"But I feel that up front with Blake Powell and Kwabena Appiah and Jeffrey Sarpong and even Roly Bonevacia going forward, we have good enough options up there. It's just about getting supply to them and taking our chances."

The good news for Phoenix fans is that their issues pale in comparison with the Jets.

After a stunning opening month, when they won three of their first four matches, the Jets have failed to win any of their past 10 games and haven't scored for six games. They have gone 559 minutes since their last goal.

The hosts will be boosted by the likely return of Brazilian Leonardo, with the classy midfielder set to play after more than a month out with an ongoing knee complaint.

Bonevacia will link with Michael McGlinchey and Blake Powell in the Phoenix's front line.

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