Merrick ponders post-Burns goal woes
Despite being reduced to 10 men following Albert Riera’s 56th-minute exit following his second booking, the Phoenix continued to attack, chalking up seven shots in total, many of them decent, good looks, and accruing more corners than the Reds (9-6) - all to no avail.
Aside from the always threatening Fijian flyer Roy Krishna, there is not much else.
Wellington have mustered five goals from their past six matches and are still coming to grips with life after Nathan Burns, last season’s leading goal-scorer, now plying his trade with FC Tokyo in Japan.
“At the moment we've only got one player who gets into an out-and-out goal-scoring position and that's Roy,” Merrick said.
“If Roy's tightly marked, we don’t seem to have any options.
“We lost Nathan Burns and we're still suffering a wee bit from that.
“I thought I could turn Jeffrey Sarpong into a goal-scorer. He's a terrific winger, midfielder or No.10, (but) he’s not really an out and out goal-scorer.”
Despite the heavy defeat, Merrick felt his side had the better of the first half before Manny Muscat’s 42nd-minute own goal.
Krishna almost scored in the 50th minute, only to be denied by the scrambling goal-line desperation of Eugene Galekovic and Dylan McGowan.
Merrick believes that if Krishna had equalised, the Nix would have carried the momentum into a prized away victory.
Instead things went thoroughly pear-shaped with Riera’s dismissal followed by back-to-back United goals.
“In the first half we thought we controlled the midfield really well.
At half-time I just praised them,” Merrick said.
“Then in the second half, I don’t know how Roy missed the goal that came off Eugene’s leg.
“If we'd scored then and got the equaliser, I think we would have gone on from there.
“Albert Riera, with his very first yellow, got a (second) yellow card.
We struggled after we went down to 10 men.”
Riera will miss this Thursday’s New Year’s Eve clash against the Central Coast Mariners through suspension, while Krishna and Sarpong are also in doubt.
Sarpong substituted out in the 67th minute with a calf injury, while Krishna broke his finger when he fell awkwardly when attempting a tap-in in the 85th.
“Jeffrey's hurt his calf - that’s why he had to come off - and Roy Krishna fell awkwardly and he's broken his finger, fairly badly,” Merrick said.
“It was pretty tough of him to get back on that pitch because he was in a lot of pain.
“We'll have to see if he can play with a broken finger and see if Jeffrey comes up.
“We're going through a very difficult phase regarding away games and injuries at the moment.
“But I think we've got depth in the squad to overcome it.”