Merrick out to attack

Ernie Merrick is not letting Melbourne's shortage of fit and available players change his attacking mindset ahead of Saturday's match against Perth at Telstra Dome.

Ernie Merrick is not letting Melbourne's shortage of fit and available players change his attacking mindset ahead of Saturday's match against Perth at Telstra Dome.

Merrick is missing three first-choice players through suspension and at least one through injury for this week's match against the Glory. But the Melbourne coach won't be altering his style of play, instead placing his faith in the depth of his squad.

"The depth will be tested this week. I'm confident we have the squad to go out and play and we certainly will play for a win," he said.

Merrick will be missing Carlos Hernandez (suspended as well as injured) and Michael Thwaite (injured) from the starting XI he named for the 2-0 defeat to Queensland last Sunday. Ney Fabiano and Michael Theoklitos remain suspended. The absentees open the door for Tom Pondeljak to come in as a third striking option, while Evan Berger will be restored to the team to add some speed down the flanks.

"Given that Tom Pondeljak is playing so well and he'll be up front with Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson, we feel that's a very good strike force," he said.

"The main area we were flat (last week) were the two flanks. Evan Berger was outstanding when he came on on the left. He's all or nothing, Evan, he's a flying machine when he gets forward. He's justified his selection in the first team."

Hernandez's absence provides the biggest headache for Merrick, but the return to form and fitness of Grant Brebner could see the Scotsman fill the hole behind the attacking trio.

"I would say Brebner would play a more forward role. And Celeski and Berger will certainly be a more attacking flank-type role," he said. "I feel that 'Brebs' can play that role that Carlos has been playing."

The other option in attacking midfield could be Nick Ward off the bench. The talented 23-year-old has had a wretched run with injury, but Merrick believes should he prove his fitness, then he could be good for a cameo off the bench.

"For an attacking player off the bench, Nick Ward is an option and that will be subject to a fitness test. He's trained hard all week and now he's having a lighter session, we are hoping he'll be available for a role off the bench," he said.

"As back-up, we are struggling for attacking players, but there's a youngster in our National Youth League team called Mathew Theodore, so he will be on standby."

Merrick admitted that the changes in personnel up front had made it harder for his regular strikers to maintain their strong early-season form. But he said he wasn't concerned by Allsopp's quiet game last week.

"There's no doubt that we gelled with three strikers, Dan, Archie and Ney Fabiano. That worked well right through the Pre-Season Cup. There's a change to that and that affects the way they play, but I really feel Tom Pondeljak is getting a relationship with those guys," he said.

"With strikers, they are judged on goals for all the time. The strikers rely on good service and if the service isn't there, there's a consequence to the strikers. Danny's had an exceptional year including the Pre-Season Cup and up until last week I thought he's been outstanding, he's got four goals, this is shaping up to be one of his best years," he said.