Merrick praises charges

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick was full of praise for his side's resilience after they registered a third-straight win with a last-gasp goal to down the Newcastle Jets 2-1 at AAMI Park.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick was full of praise for his side's resilience after they registered a third-straight win with a last-gasp goal to down the Newcastle Jets 2-1 at AAMI Park.

Despite a below-par performance, the Victory picked up another crucial three points thanks to two pieces of magic from Carlos Hernandez and Robbie Kruse.

Hernandez's swerving 35m strike in the first half sent Victory to the break with a fortunate 1-0 lead before a sublime run from Kruse set up substitute Ricardinho in the 90th minute to cancel out Ruben Zadkovich's equaliser for Newcastle.

But for the two passages of individual brilliance, Victory were outplayed for the better part of 90 minutes and Merrick was well aware of how important those two 'special' moments were, in particular Kruse's mesmerising run to set up the winner.

"Sometimes you think it's going to take something special to break the deadlock and we produced it when we needed to in the (90th) minute," Merrick said.

On Kruse, Merrick couldn't praise him enough: "It was a wee bit of magic at the end, sure Ricardinho tapped it over the line but I don't know how many times he beat either the same player twice or he beat another player."

From a winger-cum-striker who went to ground too easily to the league's leading scorer, Merrick admitted Kruse had grown incredibly over the past 12 months.

"I remember last year he kept falling over now he's much stronger, he's tougher on the ball. I can't praise him enough, he's come such a long way in such a short space of time."

The win, without the likes of regulars Archie Thompson, Surat Sukha, Matthew Kemp (all injured) and Grant Brebner (suspension), sees Victory leapfrog rivals Melbourne Heart into fifth with a two point buffer and two games in hand, while Newcastle remain in seventh.

Merrick admitted the task was always going to be a difficult one with the calibre of players on the sideline, but was always confident Victory could snatch the points despite being a little off the pace.

"I always felt that we had good quality players in the side but if you take four players out of the side you lose continuity and I don't think it was our best performance," he said.

"The last 10 or 15 minutes I always got the feeling that our players wanted to win the game and their players were happy with a draw."

The importance of the three points was not lost on defender Adrian Leijer with the Jets, along with the Heart and Wellington Phoenix realistically vying for two finals spots.

"I think it's coming down to the crunch time of the season and it's good that we're finding some form in a crucial stage of the season and the next seven games are important for us and a lot of other teams in the same situation," Leijer said.