Merrick misses Muscat

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has admitted that the defending champions have missed the composure of skipper Kevin Muscat in what has been the Victory's worst-ever start to a Hyundai A-League season.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has admitted that the defending champions have missed the composure of skipper Kevin Muscat in what has been the Victory's worst-ever start to a Hyundai A-League season.

Sunday's 1-1 home draw with Wellington made it six points from as many matches for Melbourne, its worst ever return from the first six games of a season. Merrick said his players were lacking composure and discipline at the back, and struggling to create chances up front.

"We've lost the spine of the team a little bit with Danny Allsopp, Billy Celeski and Kevin Muscat. I think we've got the players to make up for that. It's a case of them all gelling together and getting used to each other," he said.

"It was an inconsistent performance, I never felt that we were going to get beaten, but at the same time, we just didn't look like we were going to win the game either."

Melbourne struggled to contain Wellington at set pieces and the Phoenix had several chances to go ahead from corners and free kicks. Merrick admitted his frustration with the continuing problems with the dead ball in defence and believes the absence of Muscat, who hasn't played since the opening match of the season, is a major factor.

"I think we had turns each at not doing our jobs. We've talked about it, and talked about it, I think Kevin makes a big difference when he comes into our defence, not only from that type of organisation, but the quality of the pass out of defence is lacking," he said.

The coach said that Muscat would most likely return for next Friday's all-important clash with Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium.

"Kevin probably could have played today, but what we were mindful of is that it's a five-day turnaround, two games within five days. To bring him back and maybe not play him. Most hamstrings take a minimum of six weeks, I think it's six weeks next week," he said.

"I think he'll be pretty close to going. However, having said that, if he's not right, he isn't going to play. I certainly as a coach, miss his presence on the field."

Meanwhile, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert felt that his players had missed an opportunity to get a famous win and really kick start Wellington's season.

"I thought we played extremely well, given the circumstances. At the end of the day we were good enough for three, but we got one. We don't go anywhere with any fear. We certainly set the stall out to win the game," he said.

Wellington hosts bottom-of-table North Queensland Fury next week in a match which could prove important the prospects of both clubs.