The Wellington Phoenix’ season was summed up by the 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
The Wellington Phoenix- season was summed up by the 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
When the teams met at the same venue earlier in the season the Phoenix, with their strongest side on show, outplayed Victory and came away with a 5-0 win.
It was a much-changed and depleted Phoenix side that conceded goals in the first and 45th minutes to trail 3-0 at the break, and had only a last-minute superb strike by Jeremy Brockie to show for 90 minutes of effort.
Coach Ernie Merrick, in his first season with the club, has never shirked the responsibility for a poor season but hopes he will never have such an injury interrupted season again in the future.
“How tough does it get?”, Merrick asked resignedly in the after-match media conference.
“We had both keepers out with injury and Glen Moss sat on the bench with painkillers.
“Again in the backline we had only one recognised player and when you play against a quality side like Victory that it is difficult.
“It has been the way of our season that we struggle to back up when we have injuries and suspensions because we don-t have quality in depth.”
Captain Andrew Durante agreed with his coach.
“In the latter part of the season in particular we have had so many changes every week that you look around the pitch and there is always someone different alongside you,” Durante said.
“It is unsettling, especially when those coming in are young and inexperienced.
“It-s also unfair to throw so many young players in at the deep end but Ernie has had no choice.
“One positive is that these kids are going to be very good players and this experience will benefit them in the future.”
Durante said that the number of goals his team had conceded this season was unacceptable but there were mitigating circumstances.
“The better teams in the league have the same back four and holding midfielder for most of the season and that is why they are successful,” he said.
The Phoenix couldn-t have got off to a worst start, conceding a goal in the first minute to Archie Thompson after a flowing move through the Victory midfield.
Troisi made it 2-0 in the 29th minute and the talented Gui Finkler added the killer third goal right on halftime.
Mark Milligan added a fourth goal in the 59th minute from the penalty spot with Phoenix fullback Shaun Timmins being sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
Brockie gave the home fans, who sang and chanted throughout the game, something to remember with a trademark volley in the 93rd minute.
“The fans have been fantastic throughout the season,” Merrick said.
“I-ve never had such a tough season as a coach but I-ve never had such a great bunch of fans and if we recruit well we-ll give them something to shout about next season.”
Wellington Phoenix: Jacob Spoonley, Michael Boxall, Luke Adams, Andrew Durante, Shaun Timmins, Manny Muscat, Vince Lia, Carlos Hernandez (Matt Ridenton 59m), Kenny Cunningham (Roy Krishna 88m), Tyler Boyd (Jason Hicks 65m), Jeremy Brockie.