21 Feb 2016

Merrick blasts A-League draw

10:25 am on 21 February 2016

The Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has hit out at the A-League draw following their 3-2 loss at Newcastle, claiming the constant travel hasn't helped his team's results.

"The last 17 rounds, we've been in New Zealand six times... so we don't seem to have a home advantage anymore. It's a fairly horrendous draw," Merrick said.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick Photo: Photosport

Newcastle's win lifted the eighth-placed Jets to 23 points, while the Phoenix, who had their future in the A-League assured for at least the next four years on Friday, remain ninth on 19 - eight points off the playoff places.

And the coach conceded it's not looking very good for his team's chances of making the A-League finals now.

"I thought if we could get a win (in Newcastle) we might scrape into the finals, but we're not looking very good for that."

New Phoenix striker Hamish Watson scored both the visitors' goals before being sent off.

In his second game as a starting forward, Watson left his side a man down from the 71st minute after petulantly kicking the ball away at a Jets free-kick and copping a second yellow card.

Former Denmark international Morten Nordstrand made the Phoenix pay two minutes later when he scored with a low strike after a one-two exchange with Enver Alivodic put him close to goal.

Nordstrand, in his first starting effort for the Jets, earlier produced a class strike for the equaliser. After a ball from Leonardo gave him room just inside the 18-yard box, the Dane curled his right-foot shot inside the far post.

The two quality finishes from Nordstrand - the 32-year-old's first goals for Newcastle in his fourth appearance - guided the Jets back from a 2-1 deficit at half-time in the round-20 game.

The Wellington club opened the scoring when Michael McGlinchey's corner glanced the head of Jet Steven Ugarkovic before finding an unmarked Watson, who netted his first A-League goal with a right-foot strike.

The Jets were on level terms five minutes later courtesy of an own-goal from former Newcastle defender Andrew Durante. Leonardo had put Alivodic into space before the Serbian's cross found Durante's knee and the back of the net.

Wellington took the lead back in the 37th minute when Watson's strike converted a chance created by Blake Powell. Roli Bonevacia put Powell on goal with a beautiful through ball before the striker's touch found Watson unmarked in front of goal.

Phoenix coach Merrick called Watson "immature" afterwards for his red card.

"I mean he's just immature really, he hasn't played at this level very much," Merrick said.

"And we finally bring him in, he scores two goals and gets himself sent off - and we haven't had a striker all year virtually. So it's not been a great year. Very disappointing year, disappointing draw. I won't even mention the refereeing."