Football: Merrick declares Phoenix season over

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

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick declared his side's "horrendous" A-League season over after they gave up the lead twice on Saturday to lose 3-2 to Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.

Two quality finishes from former Denmark international Morten Nordstrand in his first starting effort sank the Phoenix, who led through two goals to second-game striker Hamish Watson.

Nordstrand scored in the 53rd and 73rd minutes, his first goals for Newcastle in his fourth appearance, as the Jets fought back from a 2-1 deficit at halftime in the round-20 game.

Watson left his side a man down from the 71st minute after copping a second yellow card. His first, in the 42nd minute, was for a foul on Daniel Mullen and his second was for kicking the ball away at a Jets free-kick.

Watson scored in the 22nd and 37th minutes. Andrew Durante's own-goal gave Newcastle their first in the 27th.

The loss came a day after Wellington, who sit second last on 19 points, had their future in the A-League assured for at least the next four years.

Merrick, though, blasted his side's lacklustre effort before saying the news on Friday had not been a lift to him.

"It wasn't boost to me. I don't know how it affected the players," Merrick said.

"We knew all along they're not really going to have this league without a New Zealand team in there.

"What? They're going to be different from the netball, the rugby league and the rugby union. It's just a case of how, when and where, but by having it rubber-stamped, that's terrific. Now I can start re-signing existing players and signing some new players.

"I might get a couple of strikers with a bit of luck. I'll certainly get one and he'll probably get sent off in the first game, then injured ... It's been a horrendous year."

Merrick believed his side had not coped with the heavy load of away games mid-season and said the run of home matches to finish was no consolation.

"I just love the people that say that," he said. "You're second bottom in the league, but you've got lots of home games. Second bottom of the league ... the season's over for us. We're not making the finals, but you've got these home games - great.

"I've always got an eye on next season but I thought we could get away with a win today and scrape into the finals, but we're not looking very good for that."

The eighth-placed Jets moved to 23 points and coach Scott Miller was pleased with the effort, which came after a 2-2 away draw with Brisbane and 2-1 home win over Melbourne City.

"I think it's the first time in two years we've had two home wins consecutively, so that's a nice little thing to bring to the club, but we certainly want more," Miller said. "Next week is already on our minds and we want to win that game as well."

-AAP

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