Wellington Phoenix have more to offer, says Merrick

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
Ernie Merrick
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
THINGS LOOKING UP: Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.

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With 13 points from their last six games, the Wellington Phoenix are the A-League's form team.

But coach Ernie Merrick has warned league rivals that the best is yet to come, as they aim to break into the top six for the first time this season by beating the Jets in Newcastle on Sunday.

Instead of patting themselves on the back for Saturday's 2-1 win over Adelaide United in Auckland, Merrick challenged his players in a team meeting before training at Newtown Park yesterday.

With 10 rounds left before the top-six finals, the Phoenix lie eighth but are just one point off sixth and four points off fourth.

"This is a time to try to raise the standard and pick out a few things," Merrick said.

"So I highlighted a couple of areas that we need to improve on. When you come off a win like that, a good win in front of 18,000 people, it's a time to say 'OK, are you happy with it or can we play better football, and these are the areas that I'd like to improve in,' which I won't elaborate on. It's the best time, there's nothing worse than losing three games in a row and then I'm having a go at them for not improving in certain areas. I don't think you've seen the best of the Wellington Phoenix yet."

Sunday's game at Hunter Stadium will feature the league's top two goalscorers; Stein Huysegems of the Phoenix and Newcastle's Adam Taggart, both with eight goals under their belts.

There was a healthy edge to an 11 v 11 game yesterday, with fringe players eying opportunities given suspensions to Kenny Cunningham and Michael Boxall.

"The buzz around the training squad now, knowing that a couple of players are out, to make the starting XI or the bench, is very good. That's a big part of football and we've got the right culture here and the attitude is great."

Merrick also hosed down speculation that the Phoenix could leave Wellington following mediocre attendances at Westpac Stadium.

"We will be staying in Wellington, I don't think there's any doubt about that. The crowd in Wellington has been fantastic and it's all about results. It all comes about through the style of football, the entertainment value and most of all the success the club has."

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