Merrick: Inexperience cost us

Coach Ernie Merrick has pointed to a lack of composure from his younger players as one of the key reasons why Melbourne Victory coughed up a 2-0 lead in the Melbourne derby, which ended 2-2 at Etihad Stadium.

Coach Ernie Merrick has pointed to a lack of composure from his younger players as one of the key reasons why Melbourne Victory coughed up a 2-0 lead in the Melbourne derby, which ended 2-2 at Etihad Stadium.

Victory looked well in control of the game after early goals from Danny Allsopp and Carlos Hernandez, but a brace from veteran striker John Aloisi saw Heart grab a deserved point and maintain course for a spot in the final in their inaugural year.

In a sometimes spiteful match, which saw nine yellow cards and one red card handed out - to skipper Kevin Muscat - Merrick felt that his senior men had done the job but his younger brigade had let him down.

"I think the difference was playing under pressure. I thought the crowd was fantastic, a record crowd" he said.

"The atmosphere out there was tremendous, but our younger players have to learn to play under that enormous pressure. I thought we really struggled, the younger, and less experienced players and down the right hand side we had a lot of trouble."

"Overall it as a good performance from our senior players and a learning experienced from our lesser experienced players."

While not naming those he thought had battled in the intensity of derby football, Mate Dugandzic and Diogo Ferreira both had torrid evenings and struggled to have the impact they would have liked.

The coach refused to condemn Muscat for being sent off or comment on the nature of the tackle which left young Heart winger Adrian Zahra with a serious knee injury.

"Kevin is Kevin. He does a good job for us. He's been sent off and I haven't seen the tackle," he said.

"The referee has sent him off, we accept that. They-ll make a judgement on it. If you look over the past two or three years, he has hardly been sent off at all," Merrick said about his captain, who has now been red carded in successive games.

Merrick felt the key turning point of the match was when a long ball from the Heart resulted in Aloisi's first goal in what was the final action of the first half.

"To concede a goal in the last few seconds of the first half obviously buoyed them. I would have liked to have gone in 2-0 in front and the second half would have been different but they got the goal."

Melbourne will be without Muscat for Wednesday's trip to North Queensland, with Merrick saying Adrian Leijer is a chance to return for that match. Archie Thompson won't be considered until ahead of next Sunday's home match against Gold Coast.