The Wellington Phoenix completed their pre-season preparations with an exciting 2-2 draw against Auckland City at Westpac Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Ernie Merrick was happy with the outing against a committed Auckland side that he described as the better team on the day.
The Phoenix’ passing was nowhere near the standard Merrick demands of his players, but he gave credit to the opposition for the way they pressed his team.
“I don’t think we played our best today but it has been a hard week of training and you have to give credit for the way they closed us down,” Merrick said.
“I think we are ready for the start of the season because it has been a good pre-season in which we have scored 33 goals in 12 games and defended pretty well.
“I was pleased to get Jeffrey Sarpong on the field today for his first run out as he hasn’t played or trained since May before joining us.
“We planned to give him 45 minutes but he wanted to stay on so we ended up getting a good 60 minutes out of him.”
The Phoenix trialled Sydney Olympic defender Troy Danaskos in the game after only one training session with the team and Merrick was pleased with what he saw.
“I thought he did really well but we won’t be making any decision on him just yet,” he said.
“I’ve been looking for a left-sided player who can play centre back or fullback.”
Danaskos turned in an almost unblemished defensive display and capped his trial appearance with a 36th minute goal with a low drive from the left-hand edge of the penalty area.
Ryan De Vries had opened the scoring for Auckland City in the 15th minute and Roy Krishna, who worked hard throughout the 67 minutes he was on the field, equalised eight minutes later.
Danaskos put the Phoenix ahead only for De Vries to get City back on terms in the 62nd minute.