Stunned Phoenix coach flushes football dunny

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014
Ernie Merrick
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
WARY: Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.
Phoenix-Heart match
Getty Images
AIRBORNE: Orlando Engelaar of the Heart and Stein Huysegems of the Phoenix compete for a header during the A-League match.

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Ernie Merrick won't waste any time raking over the coals of the Wellington Phoenix's worst home loss.

The Phoenix were the A-League's form team before yesterday's shock 5-0 defeat to last-placed Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium.

It was a result far worse and more surprising than the three-goal home defeats to Brisbane and Central Coast in 2010.

To quote Steve Hansen, it's flush the dunny and move on.

"You can't analyse a game like that," said Phoenix coach Merrick, after watching David Williams score a hat-trick for a rampant Heart.

"Everything went wrong so you'd spend the whole time trying to fix everything. I think you look back and say ‘well, we've had a run of eight games, we've done well, everything went wrong today, we've got to put it behind us and move on.' All you can do is write it off."

The loss dropped the Phoenix out of the all important top-six and, thankfully, there is a short turnaround before Friday's visit to the struggling defending champs, Central Coast.

Merrick said there was no sense his players were flat before the match.

"Quite the opposite, actually, which is surprising. It was one of those days where everyone had an off day. The whole team performed very poorly, nothing went right, couldn't get our passing game going.

"We were well beaten and we've got no excuses. How they bounce back is an important measure of their character."

Merrick, who coached Melbourne Victory to two A-League titles, said it was the worst losing margin he could remember in his career.

"We had a 4-0 loss once, the weekend before the finals, and it was probably the best thing that ever happened because we never lost another game and went on to win the grand final. I probably have [had worse] but obviously I've hidden it from my memory."

The Phoenix sorely missed influential holding midfielder Albert Riera, who could be out for the season with a groin/abdominal injury.

Riera will visit a surgeon in Auckland this week but Merrick said he was looking at 8-9 weeks on the sidelines.

The Phoenix have been seeking injury replacements for both Riera and Louis Fenton but no-one yet fit the bill.

"Getting quality players is very hard, especially at this time of year. The injury's come at a time that's very, very hard to replace him [Riera] but we're still working on it."

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- The Dominion Post

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