Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has one simple message for his players going into Sunday’s Hyundai A-League clash with Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium: forget the opposition and concentrate on your own performance.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has one simple message for his players going into Sunday-s Hyundai A-League clash with Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium: forget the opposition and concentrate on your own performance.
Melbourne come to Wellington in good heart with three wins and a draw from their last four games, but the Phoenix are also in a rich vein of form after winning six, drawing one and losing one in their last eight encounters.
“There are no easy games in this competition, you have to accord every team respect,” Merrick said.
“But the game is in our hands. If we play to our strengths and play consistently well from the kick off to the end we will be alright.
“It is not about the opposition, it is about our performance.”
The Phoenix go into Sunday-s game on a high after an exciting 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets on Australia-s East Coast last week, and boosted by the return of internationals Kenny Cunningham and Michael Boxall from suspension.
Merrick has also brought deadline day signing Hamish Watson into the squad with Roy Krishna under a cloud with a slight groin strain.
Dropping out of the squad along with Krishna are Alex Rufer and Josh Brindell-South who both made their debuts in Newcastle.
Rufer-s was a six-minute cameo appearance, but he did the job Merrick asked in shoring up the midfield while Brindell-South-s debut was impressive.
“I thought Josh did a really good job coming in on the 18th round with no real match competition under his belt,” Merrick said.
“He did the job he was asked to and did it well away from home.
“I was also impressed with his passing role with about 89% accuracy.
“He made 30-odd passes and only missed with three or four and most of them were in the opposing half which shows he is a very attack-minded fullback.”
There was some bad news for the Phoenix however with influential midfielder Albert Riera ruled out for possibly the rest of the season.
“Scans have revealed Albert has injured his abductor muscle and there is also some damage to his lower abdominal region,” Merrick said.
“He has to see a surgeon next week to see if he needs an operation but it doesn-t look good. It could be the end of the season before he returns - eight or nine weeks.”
Merrick is confident he has enough cover for Riera and said Vince Lia, who made a good fist of replacing the Spaniard last week, would continue in the role.
“We have also got some good young players to come in who are versatile and can play a range of positions,” he said.
“Jason Hicks showed what he can do off the bench last week so he is pushing for a first XI spot.
“Matt Ridenton and Jason can both play the midfield role, as can Reece Caira.”
Merrick said the final midfield spot would probably go to either Hicks or Ridenton but wouldn-t reveal which till match day.
The game kicks off at 5pm with the Phoenix- major sponsor Huawei putting up a $10,000 prize for a lucky ticket holder should the attendance reach 10,000.