Kemp injury won't shake belief

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick's belief that his team can successfully defend its premiership and championship over the next month has not been shaken despite the likelihood that influential defender Matthew Kemp will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick's belief that his team can successfully defend its premiership and championship over the next month has not been shaken despite the likelihood that influential defender Matthew Kemp will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Kemp left the field in the opening minutes of Friday's 2-0 win over North Queensland at Etihad Stadium and the early prognosis is not good for the recent Socceroos representative.

"First impressions aren't good. We hope the diagnosis is incorrect but first impressions are he's done some damage to his ACL. It's not been a good week for us with injuries. We'll know the extent when he has the MRI (on Monday)," an ashen-faced Merrick said post game.

The similarities between the incident which led to Kemp's injury and the one which Billy Celeski suffered when rupturing his ACL earlier in the season were too close for comfort for Melbourne and Merrick, who also lost Archie Thompson to a foot injury for a month during the week.

"Once again another top player who has such a good year that he got Socceroos selection, which was tremendous for him. But in the first minute of the game, it wasn't a tackle or anything, it was just one of those things," Merrick said of Kemp.

It was the one negative on a night where an undermanned Melbourne, also minus suspended skipper Kevin Muscat, took a strong grip on the Premiers' Plate thanks to two Carlos Hernandez goals.

The performance has Merrick convinced that his side has the depth and strength of character to weather any setback in its quest for back-to-back titles.

"Every year, there's always challenges arise, whether you are on a bad run or you lose players or whatever," Merrick said.

"I think it's just turned out this way that we've had more challenges than we have had previously but we've got a lot of belief in the depth of our squad, the goalscoring ability, the creative ability and our rock solid defence," he said. "To see all these boys continually step up is very rewarding."

While losing players of the calibre of Kemp, Muscat and Thompson at this stage of the season could be used an excuse for a poor performance, the club will not tolerate any talk of mitigating circumstances for failure.

"We've actually made a point of highlighting the fact that we don't want any excuses for losing matches. It's been a bit of a mantra this year, 'Don't find any excuse to lose a game'," he said.

Merrick lavished praise on the Hernandez, who displayed his class from both open play and from the dead ball with a goal in each half.

"Carlos was outstanding. Not only was he scoring goals but he created so much and towards the end set up Aziz Behich and Nik Mrdja. He truly had an outstanding performance, Carlos. Best attacking midfielder I've ever worked with," he said.

Merrick was also pleased with the debut of new recruit Nik Mrdja, who only arrived at the club on the day of the match. Mrjda played a half and while he missed a couple of excellent chances to mark his Melbourne debut with a goal, he showed enough to suggest he can fill a role in Thompson's absence.

In some further positive news, Merrick said Robbie Kruse had not done any more damage to his injured shoulder and would be fine to take on Sydney in a massive final match of the season next week.