Wellington coach Ernie Merrick doesn’t see his side’s 5-0 mauling of Melbourne Victory as a turning point, and says the team is still a work in progress.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick doesn’t want to talk about turning points – he’s just not a believer.
So although there’s a case to be made that the Phoenix’s 5-0 thrashing of Melbourne Victory on Saturday was a pivotal moment in their season, Merrick is having none of it.
“If you want to believe in a sudden turning point, I guess you could believe the other way, that suddenly it all goes bad, and I don’t believe that either,” he said.
“I think it’s more a case of you just keep working at it.”
Merrick says an unfailing positive approach from the players has played a big part in the team’s steady development.
“It’s always a work in progress, you’re always trying to get more consistent. There are certain areas you want to get better – you want to get shots on target more, you want to get your back line up and down.”
The Phoenix achieved both those targets against Merrick’s former club Melbourne: they shut down the Victory’s dangerous attack, created a host of chances at the other end and could have converted more than five.
Carlos Hernandez picked up a brace, including a late first half penalty, and fellow Costa Rican international Kenny Cunningham contributed a beautifully judged strike from 20 metres out.
Out-of-touch striker Jeremy Brockie got back on the scoring sheet after an 11-game drought, while former Belgian international Stein Huysegems notched his seventh of the season in the runaway win.
The Phoenix went winless for their first 10 games of the season, but are now unbeaten in their last five after recording four wins and a draw.
Merrick remained relentlessly positive during that frustrating time, and said on Saturday he was always confident the Phoenix could deliver the performance they’d been threatening.
“It all came together and now the challenge is to repeat that ongoing.”
Sitting eighth on the ladder with 17 points, the Phoenix are just three away from fifth-placed Perth Glory, but face a tricky match across the Tasman against league leaders Brisbane Roar next Sunday.
Adding to the challenge, the Phoenix will be missing Cunningham and Hernandez, released for two friendly matches with Costa Rica in South America this week.
Hernandez is nursing a calf injury, behind his benching early in the second half of the Victory match.
“He tried in the second half but he was limping so we took him off,” Merrick explained.
“He wasn’t happy, he hates coming off the field of play – I think he was looking for his hat-trick. But he saw the sense of it and afterwards he was very happy.”