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Merrick upbeat despite depleted Phoenix

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/11/2016 Cathy Walshe
Coach Ernie Merrick of the Phoenix. © Getty Images Coach Ernie Merrick of the Phoenix.

No sooner had Wellington Phoenix given a tantalising glimpse of their potential than coach Ernie Merrick was bracing himself to lose nearly half his team for their next match.

After four A-League games without a win, Wellington finally delivered with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

But Merrick will have to start again from scratch next Saturday in round six against Central Coast Mariners in Canberra.

Five of his first-choice players will be on international duty with the All Whites in their World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in Auckland.

A sixth, defender Tom Doyle, will also be absent as he works his way back from a stubborn hamstring strain.

While Merrick admits the thought of that readjustment did take some of the shine off Wellington's win, he's still pretty philosophical about the whole business.

"That's the cards we've been dealt. It'll be a real challenge for us, but I think we're up for it after that result."

Merrick will still have the services of Roy Krishna, whose first-half double against Newcastle was enough to earn the Phoenix their first two points of the season.

Merrick had tweaked his midfield, benching Roly Bonevavcia in favour of partnering the more defensive-minded Alex Rodriguez with 200-game veteran Vince Lia.

Playing in front of a back four strengthened by the return of Italian central defender Marco Rossi, Rodriguez and Lia's hard work freed up playmakers Gui Finkler and Michael McGlinchey.

The duo were able to direct a steady stream of quality ball to Krishna and Kosta Barbarouses, who proved brutally efficient in slicing through Newcastle's makeshift defence.

Barbarouses and McGlinchey join defenders Andrew Durante and Louis Fenton, and goalkeeper Glen Moss, in heading north to link up with the All Whites next week.

Despite those absences, Merrick is confident Wellington can reproduce the high energy game they showed against the Jets.

However, he does admit it would be nice to think a little luck might go Wellington's way in Canberra.

"I don't think we've had the real rub of the green yet," Merrick said.

"I'd like to see us getting a couple of penalties, a few more offside runs played onside and we get goals.

"I just want something to go well for us, just for a change, because I really feel we've copped it this year."

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