Wellington Phoenix grab disappointing draw

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014

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It was not the most memorable game played at Westpac Stadium but there was no shortage of talking points following the Phoenix's disappointing 1-1 draw with Perth last night.

Josh Brindell-South suffered a season-ending ankle injury after stepping in a pot-hole; Ernie Merrick blasted Carlos Hernandez for his petulance; and Perth goalkeeper Jack Duncan got away with elbowing Kenny Cunningham in the face.

It all somewhat overshadowed an opportunity missed for the eighth-placed Phoenix, who were unable to put away the A-League's last-placed team.

First, Brindell-South, who joins Paul Ifill, Louis Fenton, Albert Riera and Reece Caira in a crowded casualty ward.

"Josh Brindell-South rolled his ankle stepping in a hole, made from the rugby [on Friday] I presume," said Phoenix coach Merrick.

"But it looks like it's another season ending, 4-6 weeks, medial tear of the lateral side of his ankle ... The surface is pretty bad which is surprising because as far back as I can remember this has always been one of the best surfaces in the league. I'm surprised it's so bad out there. The holes were filled up with sand but that gave way pretty quickly and we've lost a player through it. But the stadium are doing their best."

With five games to go, Merrick remains adamant the Phoenix will qualify for the top-six finals.

But their task is getting steeper, with Hernandez's calf niggle a major concern.

Merrick dragged him off after 60 minutes and the Costa Rican star was visibly unimpressed - his response earning a rap over the knuckles from his long-time coach.

"It's disappointing he keeps doing that and doesn't support the team or wish the player that's going on all the best. His attitude at times, when he comes off, is pretty disappointing - I don't hide that fact."

It had appeared as if Perth's marquee man William Gallas was going to claim all three points for his team, the former French international ripping a classy left-footed strike past Glen Moss in the first half.

But Cunningham popped up in the 85th minute to head in Tyler Boyd's cross for his sixth goal in nine matches.

The Costa Rican also copped an elbow from Duncan after the pair got into a tangle.

"That's up to the match review panel but if it was Manny Muscat he'd be out for the next 10 years," Merrick quipped.

Aside from Gallas' goal, the Glory had precious few chances as they defended deep and in numbers.

The Phoenix were not at their best but still could have put Perth away on another day.

Surprise starter Roy Krishna hit the post, cracked a volley wide and botched another opportunity with a heavy touch.

But overall he impressed and caused the Glory problems with his pace.

The newly signed Shaun Timmins was exhausted after the match but did a solid job replacing Brindell-South at left back.

Timmins probably has that job for the rest of the season, although Merrick also has the option of Muscat, who returns from suspension for Sunday's visit to Melbourne Heart.

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- The Dominion Post

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