Ernie Merrick praises Boxall's effort at right back

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2014
Michael Boxall
Getty Images
LEARNING CURVE: Michael Boxall looks set to stay in the unfamiliar position of right back for the Phoenix.

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Michael Boxall was given a pass mark for his first effort as the new Phoenix right back undergoes a crash course in playing the position.

The 25-year-old defender had not played right back for "eight or nine" years before being asked to step in for the injured Louis Fenton in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Central Coast at Westpac Stadium.

Mariners winger Nick Fitzgerald caused some problems in the first half but Boxall grew into his work and looks set to retain the role for Saturday's home game against Melbourne Victory.

"Good job, not comfortable going forward in the first half, we spoke about it at halftime and then in the second half he started going forward," Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said.

"But not only did he go forward, he started cutting inside and played a couple of one-twos. It'll take a little while to find his feet on a regular basis but very happy with Michael. I thought it was a solid defensive display."

Merrick felt goalscorer Kenny Cunningham played his best game in a Phoenix shirt and, like striker Stein Huysegems, was only substituted because he was "exhausted."

Not for the first time holding midfielder Albert Riera was probably the pick of the Phoenix players.

Merrick also sung the praises of left back Manny Muscat and Riera's midfield partner Vince Lia.

"Vince's passing has just improved out of sight, I think the stats show high 80s [pass completion percentage]. His control of the ball, he and Albert work really well together. Albert's much more controlled [than he used to be], he doesn't dive in, he's measured, he's ball-winning."

Meanwhile, Mariners coach Phil Moss believes struggling strikers Daniel McBreen and Jeremy Brockie are just one goal away from returning to their 2012-13 form.

Central Coast's McBreen is the reigning golden boot after a 17-goal season, while Brockie scored just one less for the Phoenix.

Both capitalised on their success to go out on loan in the off-season; McBreen to Shanghai East Asia and Brockie to Toronto FC.

But both have been unable to recapture their sparkling form, with McBreen scoring just one goal this season and Brockie two.

Compounding his woes, McBreen hit a penalty way over the bar on Sunday.

"I think they've got a bit of banter between them, they're good mates," Moss said of McBreen and Brockie, North Queensland Fury team-mates in 2009-10.

"So maybe they need to leave the text messages alone for a few weeks and just concentrate on hitting the back of the net.

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"But they're both proven goalscorers and with those sorts it only takes one to go in and the confidence will lift and then I'm sure they'll go on a run."

- The Dominion Post

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