Bad Start for Phoenix

If the A-League is only as strong as its weakest link, then Wellington Phoenix are on notice. Michael Cockerill, Football Writer for the Sydney Morning Herald

Disappointment for football fans

By Dave Daniel

PhoenixThe Wellington Phoenix kicked off their 2014 A League campaign with a 2-1 home loss to the Perth Glory last Sunday. They flapped their wings but never really took off and sadly some of the familiar weaknesses surfaced again.

It is only one game, but I left the stadium a little deflated and many of the 7,767 crowd would have felt the same.

Are their real reasons for concern about the season? It is far too early to say. After the game, Ernie Merrick pinpointed the areas that need improving and they were all too obvious in the bright sunshine of Sunday afternoon.

Jeremy Brockie the key striker, or someone else?

BrockieIs Jeremy Brockie the man to score the goals for the Phoenix? He was a tired man last season after his exploits with Toronto FC, and this meant that he played over a year without a proper break. This time round he has had a rest during the off season and plenty of time to get himself fit both mentally and physically.

The spotlight will be on him and rightly so and I can’t help feeling that a few more ineffective displays will see him make way for Roy Krishna. Possession alone doesn’t win games, to put it bluntly, goals do and the Phoenix need a predator up front, someone with that instinctive knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Giving the Glory too much latitude

Perth GloryThe Glory were able to boss the game for some periods and I was surprised that we did not put more pressure on them when they had the ball.

In the first half especially we defended too deep and it was no surprise when they scored after a period of control resulted in several corners and a nervous looking Phoenix rearguard.

The winning goal must have been very disappointing for Ernie Merrick. Having clawed their way back with an excellent equaliser the old habit of giving the ball away cheaply cost them. Did Ben Sigmund expect to get the square pass from Vince Lia?

It all looked a bit dicey and Perth broke away, a quick pass through to Jamie MacLaren saw the striker lash the ball home beyond Glenn Moss. It was painful to watch but the execution was impressive.

How did the new boys go?

The Phoenix of course had 5 new players making their debut in the A League. This in itself may have been a part of the problem, but in the coming weeks a vast improvement is required. Michael McGlinchey impressed and scored the equaliser with just the sort of late run into the penalty area that will always cause defenders problems.

Nathan Burns showed lots of enterprise and played a great ball into McGlinchy after looking up and spotting his run. His black mark was failing to score when he went clear in the first half with just the keeper to beat.

For me Roly Bonevacia was the most impressive of the new boys. OK, he was subbed late on but there is no doubt that he Roly B was a red card in waiting at the time and Merrick’s decision made sense. Some of Bonevacia’s work in tight situations was fantastic and the way he held up the ball before playingBurns in during the build up to the equaliser was class. This boy will shine, no doubt about it, and when he gets the ball he looks like he is going to make something happen. Watch this space.

Tom Doyle struggled at left back after a strong pre season. He is young and will improve under Merrick’s guidance so I think we should give him time. Alex Rodriguez (or is it Gorren ? ) worked hard throughout without making much impression.

Tough talking needed to bring an improvement

MerrickThe usual routine is for coaches to wait 24 hours before bringing players to task about their performance. Games are analysed and the team meetings can be brutal.

It has to be that way and let’s hope that on the Tuesday following the game the players were left in no doubt that performances of that standard will not be enough to take the Phoenix to the play-offs and surely that is the bottom line.

Personally I think it will get better but it has to start this weekend against the Central Coast Mariners.