Newcastle Jets boss will resist making wholesale changes to his out-of-sorts side but he’ll be forced into a reshuffle for Saturday night’s F3 Derby against Central Coast Mariners.
After surging to second spot and in sight of league-leaders Sydney FC just three weeks ago, the Jets are now limping into the finals having suffered a hat-trick of defeats.
While they have second place – and a home Grand Final qualifier to come on Friday, April 27 – assured, they’ll want to arrest their form slump and regain some momentum ahead of the playoffs.
There has been calls for Merrick to shake-up his mis-firing side but he won’t be wielding the axe, although he’ll be forced into some minor changes for the Mariners clash.
Ronny Vargas (groin) and Wayne Brown (calf) are almost certain to miss through injury, while defender Daniel Georgievski is set to return from suspension.
“I don’t have lots of players to make lots of changes, nor do I often make lots of changes,” Merrick said.
“Generally it is the less experienced players who lose their spot. But it wasn’t through a lack of effort. Our GPS stats showed the boys worked extremely hard.
“They are really keen to play well and there was no lack of effort. Structurally we just have to sort out the midfield, our fullbacks, and when they should get forward, and that final pass in the final third.
“There will be a change or two in the backline especially with Daniel Georgievski being available. We will rejig the midfield.”
And the Derby clash could be just the fixture to help the Jets out of their slumber.
The Hunter club has won both fixtures against the Mariners this season, including an opening round 5-1 drubbing at Central Coast Stadium.
“I think the derby has come at a good time,” Merrick said.
“They will be desperate to make sure they don’t finish bottom of the ladder. The Mariners boys are no doubt full of pride and will be doing everything they can to beat us.
“It is the sort of pressure again that we need and we will see if we can respond to it.
“We are responding physically in terms of work ethic, but we are not getting the combinations right and structures right. It will be another good challenge for us to prepare for the finals.”