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Newcastle boss Merrick wants action over 'horrendous' Pepper tackle

Jacob Pepper & Andrew Nabbout
Jacob Pepper, left, battles for the ball with Newcastle's Andrew Nabbout.

Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick is demanding action over an ugly tackle that has put his star recruit Pato Rodriguez in doubt for Saturday's A-League clash against Wellington.

Rodriguez was left nursing a bruised ankle and was unable to train on Monday after the two-footed challenge from Jacob Pepper early in the second half of Friday's 1-0 win over the Roar.

Pepper was not penalised but Merrick has personally flagged it with referees boss Ben Wilson, after claiming match officials admitted to him they did not see the 54th-minute incident when it unfolded.

Merrick said it was a "horrendous" tackle that could have easily left Rodriguez with a broken ankle.

"These are the tackles that we're trying to get rid of," Merrick told reporters.

"We don't want to lose our best players because someone launches into a two-footed tackle like that.

"If the referee had seen it, if he'd dealt with it with a yellow card or something like that, then they can't review it. But this is the scenario they can review.

"I don't think [Pepper] had any malice -- maybe it was a rush of blood or something.

"But these things have just got to be stamped out if we want to keep our best players on the park, entertain the public and grow the A-League."

Newcastle Jets celeb Hoffman 180112
Jason Hoffman celebrates after scoring the only goal in Newcastle's 1-0 win against Brisbane.

The A-League's match review panel is due to meet on Monday.

Argentine Rodriguez, who came on as a substitute at half-time, played out the remainder of the match but Merrick said he was clearly restricted in his output.

"He's been hobbling ever since, he can't train today and we were very keen for him to have a full week of training so he'd be available from the start next weekend," he said.

"We don't even know if he'll be available now."

Meanwhile, Merrick said injured Jets marquee Ronald Vargas could return to field training within days as he continues his recovery from a broken leg.

The Venezuelan international suffered the gruesome break in October last year but is expected to be back playing next month.

Rodriguez was signed as an injury replacement player for Vargas, with the two having played together previously at AEK Athens.


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