13 Dec 2015

Phoenix coach fires up over heat

1:03 pm on 13 December 2015

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick says whoever scheduled Saturday's A-League clash in Cairns for mid-afternoon must never have played football.

Ernie Merrick

Ernie Merrick Photo: Photosport

While not making excuses for his side's 2-1 loss to Brisbane at Cazaly's Stadium, Merrick said he had "no idea" why the match wasn't played two hours later given the unforgiving north Queensland heat and humidity.

The game was seemingly played in slow motion but the result lifted the Roar to second on the ladder behind Western Sydney, who consigned the Melbourne Victory to a 2-0 defeat that extended the Wanderers' winning streak to seven matches.

Roy Krishna scored for the Phoenix just at the end of the first half, before the Roar's Steven Lustica levelled the score at 71 minutes and Jamie Maclaren scored the winning goal four minutes from full-time.

The match was the first top-level national football game to be held in Cairns.

Only 5162 fans showed for the Phoenix and Roar clash, which was the first national league match held in Cairns. That was less than expected, undoubtedly due to the lack of shade at the oval-shaped ground where the temperature was an oppressive 33°C and the humidity of more than 60 percent.

A drinks break was held midway through the first half, since the pre-match wet bulb globe temperature reading of 28°C was on the threshold at which, according to Football Federation Australia's heat policy, either a break should be introduced or a delayed kick-off considered.

"Of course, we weren't allowed a drinks break in the second half because it was a nanodegree below 28," Merrick said.

"Kick-off time is obviously decided by someone who's never played football in his life.

"[The Roar] adapted well, they play and train regularly in this type of heat in Brisbane. We knew it would come down to that.

"It's pretty tough on the lads."

There was no scope for the game to be delayed as there were two other A-League games set down for Saturday night.

Merrick said he was happy to see matches staged in places like Cairns but rued the lack of common sense in scheduling.

"It's great, I wish we played more regional games," he said.

"I think this is good for football in this country... The crowds that come in are terrific, the hospitality we've been shown is first class.

"I pat Brisbane Roar on the back for bringing this game up here - as I say, if it was a couple of hours later, we might have been able to hang on a bit longer."

Brisbane coach John Aloisi said the heat wasn't a "big factor" for his side and underlined the importance of bringing games to regional areas.

"We made a decision before the season that Brisbane Roar's the team of Queensland," he said.

"I don't know what [the crowd] were expecting but I think there's a lot of people that support the game and most turned up. They made a good noise."

- AAP