Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is a great believer in his teams playing attractive, attacking football, but is enough of a realist to know that sometimes it is necessary to roll up the sleeves and grind out a result.
In Sunday’s 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium the Phoenix did both to establish themselves in the top four of the Hyundai A-League.
For the first 25 minutes it was the Phoenix of recent weeks as they took the game to the Asian club champions with some superb flowing moves, but all they had to show for it was a 1-0 lead thanks to Roy Krishna’s fifth goal of the season.
In the 14th minute Krishna had his heels clipped in the penalty area, took the spot kick himself, and reacted quickly to score after Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic had parried his attempt from the spot.
Covic produced three superb saves to keep his team in the game, but in the second spell his opposite in the Phoenix goal, Glen Moss, had to make some fine saves as the Wanderers bombarded him with high balls into the penalty area.
It says much for the Phoenix’ resilience that they kept a clean sheet ,and were a constant threat on the counter.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly and I was pleased with the way we ground out the win,” Merrick said.
“We dominated the game for the first 25 to 30 minutes and should have scored a couple more goals.
“They then pushed up and squeezed us and for the rest of the half we struggled a little bit.
“We re-organised at halftime, pushing Roly (Bonevacia) up alongside Mikey (McGlinchey) and did much better.
“We had a few chances but didn’t take them and had to grind it out.
“Mossy, Dura and Siggy were outstanding and in front of them Albert Riera didn’t let anything through.
“We made it tough for ourselves but Wanderers are a good team and are under-rated.
“They will cause problems for a lot of teams in the second half of the season so I was really pleased to get all three points.”
The Phoenix were scheduled to board a flight for Adelaide within hours for Wednesday’s game at Coopers Stadium and Merrick said there were a few fatigued bodies in his squad.
Krishna won’t be making the trip after being substituted in the 52nd minute with a hamstring injury.
“It is a grade one tear so not too serious, but we are not going to take any chances with him and Tyler Boyd will come into the squad,” Merrick said.
“Alex Rodriguez (who missed the Wanderers game after breaking a bone in his hand in training) has had a soft cast made and will be going to Adelaide.
“Vince (Lia) ran out of steam after not playing for a while but it doesn’t seem as bad when you come out with all three points.”
The Phoenix will also be boosted by the return of Manny Muscat who returns from a harsh two-game suspension.
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Louis Fenton, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Tom Doyle, Albert Riera, Roly Bonevacia, Vince Lia (Michael Boxall 76m), Michael McGlinchey, Nathan Burns (Kenny Cunningham 87m), Roy Krishna (Jeremy Brockie 52m).