Ernie Merrick: I've never had a season like this and it's just getting worse

Ernie Merrick. Photo / Getty Images.
Ernie Merrick. Photo / Getty Images.

Coach Ernie Merrick is lamenting an "horrendous" schedule after conceding Wellington Phoenix's A-League finals hopes are finished.

Presented with a chance to move past Newcastle into eight spot, the Phoenix conceded the lead twice before losing 3-2 to the Jets at Hunter Stadium on Saturday to stay second-last on 19 points after 20 games.

The defeat came the day after Wellington's future in the A-League was secured for the next four years. An increase in home crowds will be one of the factors in Phoenix gaining two further three-year licences.

But for Merrick, the lack of opportunities just to play regularly at home ground Westpac Stadium this year has been a concern and a factor in the club's on-field troubles.

"I think we came out very flat. I don't think we were up for a really good game," Merrick said. "I've never had a season like this and it's just getting worse.

"The boys - I think it's got something to do with the travel.

"The last 17 rounds, we've been in New Zealand six times, and only four at Westpac, so we don't seem to have a home advantage anymore.

"It's a fairly horrendous draw and the boys didn't cope with the heat. They weren't up for it."

Merrick took no solace from the fact they have five games at Westpac Stadium in the final seven matches.

Second-game striker Hamish Watson scored his first and second goals in the A-League for Phoenix to give them a 2-1 lead at half-time.

But the 22-year-old injury replacement signing was then sent off for a second yellow card in the 71st minute after kicking the ball away at a Jets free kick.

A 27th-minute own goal from Andrew Durante and a double to former Denmark international Morten Nordstrand in the 53rd and 73rd minutes gave Newcastle the win. Merrick said Watson's day summed up Wellington's season.

"He's just immature really," he said. "He hasn't really played at this level very much. We finally bring him in, he scores two goals, then gets himself sent off. And we haven't had a striker all year virtually, so it's not been a good year.

"A very disappointing year. A disappointing draw. I won't even mention the refereeing. He's fulltime as well? I better not say too much. I'll get another fine.'


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