Merrick: We'll be a very exciting team next year

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2014
Kenny Cunningham
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
HEY REF!: Kenny Cunningham takes a tumble during the Phoenix's 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory.

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Bemused Ernie Merrick labelled it the most difficult season in his 27-year coaching career.

Knackered skipper Andrew Durante called the rollercoaster campaign "mentally draining."

Whatever the adjectives, Saturday's 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory summed up the Phoenix's ultimately disappointing season.

There were more injuries, as goalkeeper Glen Moss (hip flexor) was forced to pop painkillers before taking his place on the bench, and Carlos Hernandez limped off with a thigh problem.

More ill discipline, as Shaun Timmins was sent off for hacking down Kosta Barbarouses, and some turnstile defending, with the 51 goals against the worst in the club's seven-year history.

Merrick genuinely believes that an unlucky run of injuries was to blame for a ninth-placed finish, handing over the wooden spoon to Melbourne Heart.

"If you look at the table I think you get a false picture of where we're at," Merrick said.

"With our best team out and the way we were travelling, I think we'll be a very exciting team next year."

Durante put his own hand up for the defensive woes, but life has been made hard through a constantly changing back four.

He is steadfast in his belief that Merrick's move to a more attacking brand of football will translate to a rise up the ladder next season.

"To say the season's been a complete failure, it's far from it," Durante said.

"So many players have stepped up and become better players this season. You speak to Siggy [Ben Sigmund], speak to Vinnie [Vince Lia] and they've enjoyed their football so much. The back end has been difficult, there's no hiding from that and there's been lots of changes. But it's not all doom and gloom. It was actually quite an enjoyable new style that we brought to the Wellington Phoenix."

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- Fairfax Media

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