Durante demands improvement

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April 18, 2015 11:35:04 UK

Skipper Andrew Durante says Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick had every right to deliver a harsh message to his side midway through Friday’s 3-2 home win against Central Coast Mariners.

Merrick told his players they might as well give up their season at that point if they were not going to step up against a Mariners side with nothing left to play for.

The Phoenix trailed 2-0 at the break, leading their coach to unleash an unusually blunt assessment of their performance.

We were doing our best to test Ernie’s stress levels. You can’t be conceding these goals so early in games.

Andrew Durante

The rocket worked a treat, though, as the New Zealanders responded with three second-half goals including a brace from substitute Kenny Cunningham.

The Costa Rican’s second goal, five minutes into injury time, kept Wellington in the hunt for a top-two finish going into their final game of the regular season at home to Sydney FC on Sunday week.

“We were doing our best to test Ernie’s stress levels. You can’t be conceding these goals so early in games,” said Durante. “In finals football, you’re not going to come back like that.”

The captain said Wellington had been guilty over the past month of letting in soft goals, which left them a lot to work on. It was the fourth time in five games that the Phoenix had conceded a goal inside the first 15 minutes.

The Phoenix are 1.53 to beat the Mariners, who are 5.75 with the draw 4.20.

Speaking of their second-half revival, Durante said: “It was exactly what Ernie told us to do at half-time – to go at them, and if we got one, we knew they’d panic a little bit.

“We left it late but that whole second half I thought we completely battered them possession-wise and chances-wise. We were good and that was an extremely exciting finish.”

Ahead of their final match, Wellington have already broken their A-League record for most points (46) and most wins (14) in a season.

The Phoenix are 8.50 to beat Sydney FC 1-0.

Sigmund, who has missed the last two games with a quad strain, trained on Wednesday.

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