Merrick hails Newcastle's resilient defence in win over Victory
Newcastle Jets boss Ernie Merrick praised his side’s defensive resilience following a hard-fought 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The Jets netted in either half through Nigel Boogaard and Riley McGree before withstanding a late Victory fightback to hold on for a dogged three points.
And while conceding it wasn’t Newcastle’s best performance, Merrick was pleased with the collective resolve of his side as they kept their fifth clean sheet of the season.
“I thought it was a very tight affair because there’s not much given away in midfield and anyone on the ball was closed down very quickly," Merrick told a post-match press conference.
“But I thought we defended extremely well throughout the game from our backline to the midfield to our frontrunners and we’ve got a clean sheet again.
“The longer the game went on, especially when we went up 2-0 obviously they were going to throw numbers forward so we had to weather that storm.
“I made a change at the end bringing on Wayne Brown to tighten it up a little bit at the back.
“I thought we could have caught them on the break a couple of times but the final pass wasn’t there because they were light on there at the back.
“But overall I was really happy with the performance.”
The win helped second-placed Newcastle reduced the margin to league-leaders Sydney FC to nine points and all but guarantees Ernie Merrick’s side a place in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
And Merrick admitted he instructed his players to treat the Victory clash like a final, given his side are likely to face Kevin Muscat’s side in the post-season.
“We’re looking like we’re going to get in the finals now. And as I said to the boys, it’s a bit of a rehearsal. We’re going to meet. And the next time we play Victory it’ll be in the finals, the way the cards fall," Merrick said.
“We’ve really got to work on keeping the ball in midfield, defending well and getting numbers forward. We did pretty well.
“I didn’t think it was slick passing from either team but that’s because it was such a tight affair. But it was great to see Riley McGree coming on and scoring a goal at the back post there."