Nightmare continues for Merrick and Phoenix
The winless Wellington Phoenix will have to get straight back on the horse this week as they attempt to snap an unwanted club record.
Saturday's 2-1 loss to A-League leaders Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium extended the Phoenix's winless streak to 10 games, including last season's final round 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory.
That nightmare stretch, which extends to four draws and five losses this season, has eclipsed the eight-game winless run in 2008, but falls a long way shy of the hapless New Zealand Knights of 2005-06, who went a league record 19 games without a win.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick, who inherited the reins this season after the wooden-spoon 2012-13 campaign, said he had never coached a team that had played such good football yet was unable to win.
He gets another two chances to break the drought this week - Thursday's visit to defending champs Central Coast Mariners in North Sydney before returning to host Sydney FC on Sunday.
"My job is to really pick the boys up for the next game," said Merrick, who had previously been accustomed to A-League success, winning two championships with Melbourne Victory.
"I don't know what to put it down to other than we're working on it hard enough. It is frustrating, more for them than me because I see we've got a good team."
The Phoenix have been competitive in all of their games this season and their general play is noticeably easier on the eye.
But simple defensive assignments continue to be missed and easy goalscoring opportunities spurned.
Brisbane enjoyed 60 per cent of possession on Saturday but the Phoenix had 20 shots to the visitors' 13, with seven on target compared to the Roar's five.
Jeremy Brockie, who was lethal last season, summed up the club's woes by inexplicably firing over an unguarded goal from point blank range.
"It's disappointing," Merrick said. "We conceded two soft goals but there were more than enough chances to win the game and the stats will show how well we played. But the stat that really matters is the number of goals and they weren't there.
"We must start scoring goals or else we'll miss out on the finals."
Throughout their setbacks, the players have remained buoyant at training sessions but they were devastated on Saturday night.
The fitness of Carlos Hernandez, Albert Riera and Paul Ifill will again be a question mark this week.
One glimmer of hope is that the Mariners aren't what they once were, pumped 4-0 by Adelaide on Saturday. Fairfax NZ
The Dominion Post