Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick conceded his team can no longer make the finals following their horror 5-0 loss to the Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium.
An injury depleted Phoenix outfit rallied to trail by a solitary goal at half-time but struggled to contain a rampant Jets outfit in the second half as they piled on four more to round out a crushing victory.
“I don’t think we’re going to make the finals now, I don’t think realistically we’re going to make the finals, I think we blew our chance tonight,” Merrick said.
“We’d have to consistently play three good games and win all three of them and I just don’t see us doing that with the lineup we’ve got at the moment.”
Merrick conceded the injuries which have plagued the club in the back half of the season caught up with the Phoenix and admitted he was forced to select a makeshift outfit.
“It definitely did, we’ve just struggled week in week out particularly in these last few weeks to turn out a stable starting eleven and I’m continually changing the backline and midfield,” he said.
“Michael Boxall has hardly played centre back all year, Manny’s gone from midfield to fullback, Shaun Timmins at left back has hardly played or trained for five months and suddenly we threw him in the deep end.”
The Jets were ruthless in attack especially in the second half as they dominated possession but Merrick felt his side’s poor defensive showing did not help the Phoenix’s cause.
“Our backline was very poor, two corner kicks, just leaving a player completely free is not like us,” he said.
“That third goal killed us, again a cross from open play and we didn’t mark, that third goal was very tough to take and we struggled to come back from there.
“We couldn’t keep the ball in midfield, I feel sorry for the boys because of changing lineups, inexperienced players, under pressure and a team like Newcastle working really hard to get in the finals and they deserve to, they played really well.”
The Phoenix sit four points adrift of the top six with three rounds remaining and despite admitting the finals is out of reach, Merrick insisted his side will fight to show their character as they finish off the season.
“Our suspensions and injuries have taken their toll, you can get away with it for so long but we couldn’t get away with it any longer and we’ve paid the price,” he said.
“We’ve got Adelaide, Sydney away from home and Victory at home, they’re all tough games and so they should be but I honestly don’t think we’ve got a team that’s playing consistently well enough to win all three games in a row.