Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has praised the resilience of his side after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers in Wellington.
Roy Krishna scored the game’s only goal, following up his own penalty which was initially saved by Ante Covic to fire his side ahead inside quarter of an hour.
“If you have to win ugly – and win – that’s what it’s all about” said Merrick.
“Wanderers are a good team. They’re a highly under-rated team. They had a few players out today, but they’ll be a problem for a lot of teams, so I was really pleased to get all three points. I would have been very disappointed with a draw and in those last ten minutes we did what it took. I didn’t think we had any bad players on the park tonight. Everyone did their job but we made it tough for ourselves.”
Merrick was particularly pleased with his experienced defenders who have overseen consecutive clean sheets for just the second occasion during his time at the club.
“(Western Sydney) had their chances but most of them came from crosses and high balls and I thought Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante and Glen Moss were outstanding. They were rock solid and in front of them, Albert (Riera) didn’t let anything through to feet.”
“To their credit they weren’t going to take a defeat easily so they pushed everyone forward which left them a little light at the back. We caught them several times on the break but unless you punish them, you’re going to have to grind it out.”
Unsurprisingly, Merrick had no complaints about the penalty awarded to his side.
“Great decision” said the Scotsman with a grin, and with tongue planted perhaps more than just a little in his cheek.
The win has come at a cost though with goalscorer Krishna ruled out of the New Year’s Eve visit to Adelaide with a hamstring tear. With Nathan Burns on Socceroos duty, the Phoenix will be without a duo that has supplied fifteen goals in twelve games this season.
But Merrick believes they have the personnel to cover the absences.
“We’ve got Jeremy (Brockie) who’ll come straight back in, we’ve got Kenny (Cunningham), we’ve got Tyler (Boyd) so I think we’ve got enough firepower up front and they’re all desperate to get a run.”
Alex Rodriguez will also return (complete with soft cast) after suffering a fracture in his hand yesterday in training and fullback Manny Muscat will come straight back into the starting side after serving a two-game ban.