Jets won 'ugly': Merrick
Ernie Merrick admitted it wasn’t Newcastle Jets’ best performance but was pleased with his side’s ability to grind out a win against an under-strength Adelaide United.
A sluggish Jets fell behind courtesy of a Nikola Mileusnic strike midway through the first half before Ben Kantarovski restored parity just prior to the half-time interval.
Andrew Nabbout fired the Jets ahead straight after the restart following a horror error from Ben Warland and repelled some late Reds pressure to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
Speaking after the game, an honest Merrick wasn’t getting carried away with Newcastle’s display.
“I wouldn’t call it a great victory. It was a pretty average performance,” Merrick said at the post-match press conference.
“We knew the Adelaide boys would come at us. It’s their home ground, good crowd and two losses they’ve had previously so they were pretty keen no doubt to get three points on the board.
“For the first half an hour we were just chasing our tails, we just couldn’t keep the ball. We made a couple of midfield changes and it turned around the last 10 minutes. We scored one, probably could have scored a couple.
“We re-organised at half time. We did well in the second half but in the end we just had to hang on. Adelaide did what they had to do, they threw numbers forward.
“It wasn’t a great game of football but it’s probably better winning ugly than losing pretty.”
The victory was Newcastle’s third away win in a row and sent Merrick’s side to the top of the table, though Melbourne City could relegate them to second with a win on Sunday.
With marquee midfielder Ronald Vargas sidelined with a long-term ankle injury, Dimi Petratos was again thrust into the playmaker role and produced another superb performance at Coopers Stadium.
And Merrick was full of praise for the 25-year-old following another man-of-the-match performance.
“I think that speaks for itself because this is the second week in a row that Dimi Petratos has played in the number 10 role where he’s been the man of the match.
“I took him off because he was just dying at the end. I decided for the last five minutes we’d just shut up shop.
“I think we’ve adapted really quite well [without Vargas].”