Merrick: ‘Phoenix should have beaten us’

Newcastle Jets boss Ernie Merrick concedes his side were immensely lucky to beat Wellington Phoenix in Saturday’s Hyundai A-League clash in Auckland.

Phoenix dominated the contest, having 23 shots to the Jets’ 10, but went down 1-0 thanks to Jason Hoffman’s 43rd minute strike.

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The Jets were carved open on numerous occasions at QBE Stadium but somehow held on for the win which has closed the gap to league-leaders Sydney FC to just five points.

“It was a very tough game. I think the Phoenix should have won the game,” an honest Merrick told Sky Sport.

“They had twice as many shot as us. Fortunately St Patrick smiled on us.

“In midfield we weren’t really playing the ball forward very well, although we were really missing Roy O’Donovan and Andrew Nabbout.

“We weren’t defending well in midfield either, that was our biggest problem, defence in midfield and at the back.”

Merrick said the return of playmaker Ronny Vargas – making his first appearance since Round 3 – was a huge plus heading towards the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.

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Despite slumping to a second straight defeat since taking the reins, Phoenix caretaker boss Chris Greenacre said he was immensely proud of his players.

“They stuck to the game plan and really took the game to the Jets, who under Ernie are a very good team and deserve to be at the top of the table,” he said.

“I’m bitterly disappointed to lose the game because I thought we created quite a lot of opportunities.

“Unfortunately, on another night we probably would have taken them but we didn’t.

“Teams at the top are on top for a reason because they grind out results and Newcastle have hit us with a sucker punch.”