Merrick confident Phoenix have improved

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April 25, 2015 09:01:23 UK

Wellington’s Nathan Burns.

Wellington Phoenix don’t believe last month’s 3-0 home defeat to Sydney FC is a guide to how their crucial re-match with the Sky Blues will go on Sunday.

Coach Ernie Merrick says his side will be a very different prospect to the one that surrendered meekly at Westpac Stadium.

That’s certainly borne out on paper, as Wellington were missing four key players that day through international duty.

Having Michael McGlinchey, Michael Boxall, Louis Fenton and 13-goal Nathan Burns back has strengthened them at both ends of the pitch.

“Four players make a big difference,” said Merrick. “I just felt as though I didn’t remould the team without those four players.”

The Phoenix lost their key players just at the time they were riding the crest of a wave, four consecutive wins having taken them into top spot for the first time in their history.

Losing to Sydney and then by the same margin at home to Melbourne Victory a week later proved fatal to their premiership ambitions, but Merrick says his team have come on strong again since then.

“Since the Victory game we haven’t lost, and we’re scoring goals again so we’re getting it right,” he said. “We want to be able to hold the ball in midfield, win it and hold it, and service the strikers up front.

“We’ve looked at how good we are when we get numbers in the box, and we get good service into the box; sometimes it’s a change of personnel, sometimes it’s a change in thinking.”

Wellington, who have only lost twice in their last 10 games, need to beat the Sky Blues to finish second in the table.

That would mean they sit out the first round of the Finals Series and get a home semi-final against a lower-ranked team.

Wellington are 2.55 to beat Sydney FC, who are 2.62 with the draw 3.40.

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