Ward set to replace Carlos

Melbourne is set to bring Nick Ward back into the line-up for the match against Newcastle on Thursday as it looks to replace Carlos Hernandez who is on international duties with Costa Rica.

Melbourne is set to bring Nick Ward back into the line-up for the match against Newcastle on Thursday as it looks to replace Carlos Hernandez who is on international duties with Costa Rica.

Coach Ernie Merrick confirmed that Ward, who has come on as a sub in the past two matches, is likely to start against the in-form Jets, along with Matthew Kemp, while Kevin Muscat is still another week away from returning. Tom Pondeljak will play a more advanced role in Hernandez's absence.

"I think Tommy's very good in that type of role. There's a good chance Wardy will come back into the team, so rather than worry about a specific players, that that's sort of player. We've got good attacking midfielders," he said.

Muscat was keen to get back for the clash against the Jets, but Merrick said that it wasn't worth risking.

"He's 90 percent and we'd rather err on the side of caution rather than rush him back. We have Kempy back," he said. "I'd rather err on the side of safety than risk him not being right, and not performing to his standards or risking another injury."

Merrick has put the acid on his men to pick up points in the next two home matches against Newcastle and Wellington, saying that it's time they turned their dominant style of football into victories.

"The next two home games are a great opportunity for us to get points on the board. We are looking for maximum points from both games. I think we're playing the right football, but we've got to finish. There's no point in playing that football if you don't finish and if you give away cheap goals," he said.

The coach has pin-pointed the team's defensive efforts as another area of concern, but doesn't attribute that to the personnel changes he has had to make in the wake of the injuries to Muscat and Evan Berger and the unavailability of Kemp.

"We've worked on a couple of things defensively, especially our set plays, but the standard of training has been very good," he said.

"I suppose we all assume it's the back line when you talk about defence, but it's more about, as they say in AFL, frontal pressure. It's to do with everyone having a defensive job and preventing simple crosses and good quality passes from midfield. I've been working on pressure throughout the team on the opposition, forcing them to put their heads down."

"Generally, when we have the ball it's very good. It's when we don't have the ball that it should be better. Again, it comes back to when we do have the ball, it's the last pass or the last strike," he said.

But Merrick won't let his players use the heavy travel schedule the Victory has endured over the past two weeks, having won in Townsville and lost in Perth, as an excuse for the second-half fade out against the Glory, or a less than satisfactory effort against the Jets on Thursday.

"I think that's any easy out for us. I think it's about us performing. Everyone has to travel it's a big country, that's the nature of the national league. I think we're playing good football, I think it's just the finishing," he said.