Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has hailed the impact of veteran striker Joel Griffiths after he provided the catalyst for a 2-0 win over Adelaide United at the Hutt Recreation Ground.
Griffiths came off the bench to open the scoring with his first goal for Wellington, but it was his wider contribution that Merrick praised afterwards.
“He’s very competitive, he doesn’t take anything from opposition defences, he rarely gives the ball away and when the ball’s in the box, he’s in there," Merrick said.
“He just knows where to be when it counts. That’s why he’s got a tremendous goal-scoring reputation. He gets stuck in, nothing holds him back. I really like that sort of attitude.”
Both of the Phoenix’s goals came in the last 12 minutes of the game, taking to 14 the number of goals the side has scored in the final quarter-hour this season.
“I don’t know who the fittest team in the league is, but we seem to be very strong in the last 15 minutes. It’s really about a mental approach. There are some key words we use near the end of games," Merrick said.
But the victory may have come at a cost with playmaker Michael McGlinchey in doubt for a potential top-of-the-table clash against Perth Glory next weekend.
“Mikey’s been suffering from calf soreness all week. He and Dura (Andrew Durante) were touch and go for this game. I decided to play (McGlinchey) and I think I made life very tough for him," Merrick said.
“I think I’ll have a good look at (McGlinchey) before I throw him in again. He’s obviously suffering and couldn’t cover the distance he wanted to. He’s such a good player for our team that maybe he needs freshening up. I’m not sure yet.”
The win took the Phoenix to the top of the A-League ladder (for a few hours at least) but Merrick insisted he wasn’t setting his sights too high.
“I’m really just looking to distance ourselves from seventh spot. The greater distance that we are away from the seventh team in the league, the more chance we have of being in the finals. I just want to get in the finals. Obviously if it’s a top-four finish, it’s better," he said.
And Merrick attended the post-match media conference having left an ecstatic home changing room.
“We’ve talked about enjoying going at teams and trying to beat them home and away. Judging by the celebrations and the song after a win, I think they’re really enjoying themselves. If I can get them to play football they’re enjoying, then I’m doing the right thing," he said.
“A clean sheet and two goals against a good team; I’m pretty happy with that.”comments