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Merrick upbeat despite City loss

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/10/2016 Cathy Walshe
Ernie Merrick coach of the Wellington Phoenix © Getty Images Ernie Merrick coach of the Wellington Phoenix

Despite Wellington Phoenix's season-opening 1-0 loss to Melbourne City, coach Ernie Merrick still found plenty to be upbeat about ahead of next weekend's clash to the Glory in Perth.

With four players on All Whites duty, and another sidelined through injury, the Phoenix were always going to struggle against A-League high-fliers Melbourne City.

A goal down at halftime on Saturday, Wellington were handed a lifeline when City were reduced to 10 men after keeper Thomas Sorensen was red-carded for handling outside his area in the 58th minute.

But although they created enough chances, Wellington couldn't finish, despite Roy Krishna's hard work up front as the lone striker.

"It was in the front third in the end where we didn't cash in," Merrick said afterwards.

"When they went down to 10 men we should have taken more advantage of that but we just lacked experienced players who know where the goal is."

That shortfall should be remedied next week, when Kosta Barbarouses, Michael McGlinchey, Louis Fenton and skipper Andrew Durante return from All Whites friendlies against Mexico and the United States in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington DC.

While injured defender Tom Doyle is still in doubt as he works his way back from a hamstring injury, Merrick is looking forward to having a near full-strength squad at his disposal.

"I'm really keen to get Kosta in the line-up again, and Mikey McGlinchey," he said.

"We need that attacking force - we missed that today.

"With more quality players, we would have finished off some of those opportunities."

Merrick is looking forward to getting his captain back, especially if - as expected - Durante plays only one of the two scheduled games in the US.

"He should be ready to go - he'll only play one game, and a centre back doesn't do that much..."

In Durante and Doyle's absence, young rookies Dylan Fox, Adam Parkhouse and Jacob Tratt worked hard with experienced Italian campaigner Marco Rossi in a makeshift back four.

By and large, they did a solid job, although Merrick is keen to see Parkhouse in his more accustomed role up front.

"You can see his pace - he gets forward, he's a good dribbler and he's a good all-round player.

"He was signed as an attacking option, but because of circumstances I had to play him as a fullback," Merrick said.

"At the end, he had the engines to keep going. I thought he was a real shining light, but all he can do is provide service - we just didn't have anyone to finish it off in the box."

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