March 24, 2015 11:59:33 UK
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is delighted at the way the signing of Nathan Burns has worked out for his premiership-chasing team.
The Phoenix avoided the wooden spoon last season by just two points despite having a regular scorer in the form of ten-goal Stein Huysegems.
When he was allowed to leave at the end of the season fans might have worried where their goals would come from in the 2014/15 campaign, but Burns has proved an even better replacement. He has 13 goals so far this season, putting him second in the Golden Boot standings behind Sydney FC’s Marc Janko. Wellington Phoenix are 5.00 to win the Grand Final.
Nathan is becoming an even better player than I thought.
Burns’ tally comes from 15 starts and four substitute appearances, and his form has earned him a recall to the Australia squad.
The 26-year-old hasn’t always been used as a central striker by Merrick, often being played out wide and creating goals like the one he set up for Michael McGlinchey in the 2-1 win away to Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
“Nathan is becoming an even better player than I thought,” said Merrick, who believes his place in the Socceroos squad under Ange Postecoglou is fully merited.
“I’ve just taken him off the wing and allowed him a lot of freedom up front. He doesn’t have to do a lot of defensive work and one-on-one I think he could take just about anyone apart in this competition.
“He’s beginning to take on two a bit too often, but he’s going past players and once you’ve got a player doing that then it frees up a lot of other strikers.”
The Phoenix will be without the former Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets player for Sunday’s home game against fellow Premier’s Plate contenders Sydney FC as he will be with the Australia squad for their two-game trip to Europe.
Wellington are 2.37 to beat Sydney FC, who are 2.80 with the draw 3.50.
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