There is no coach in the Hyundai A-League more upbeat than the Wellington Phoenix’ Ernie Merrick.
Even after his team has been on the wrong end of a couple of dodgy penalty decisions and a dubious red card, Merrick usually has a quip at the ready for the assembled media rather than show his frustrations.
That made the disappointment in his voice all the more apparent after watching his team beaten 3-1 by the Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
This was a game that the Phoenix should have won, but lost through wastefulness in front of goal and some naïve defending.
Too often this season the Phoenix have given teams a start, and Sunday was no exception when they went behind in the sixth minute to a Milos Trifunovic penalty after wasting a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring themselves.
It got worse in the 26th minute when they were exposed down the left and Ryan Kitto made it 2-0 for an ecstatic home side after keeper Glen Moss had parried a David Carney shot.
Whatever Merrick said to his players at halftime made a difference as they were a more confident outfit in the second spell that did most of the attacking.
Despite being well on top the Phoenix were caught out by a scything Jets counter-attack that ended with Carney giving Moss no chance with a well-placed strike and there was no way back from 3-0 down..
The Phoenix continued to make the pace but all they had to show for their efforts was a well-taken goal by substitute Matt Ridenton.
“When you have to rely on a 19-year-old wing back substitute to score your goal it is a worry,” Merrick said.
“I can fix the defence but it comes down to our goal-scoring capabilities.
“When they went down to 10 men we had chance after chance but they all went begging.
“We aren’t playing balls in behind the opposition so they are able to squeeze up and make it difficult for us.
“At the back there is no consistency among the young defenders and the opposition take advantage of that.”