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Jan 10, 2010

Find finals form, Merrick urges Victory

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has conceded his team must recapture some form before the A-League finals begin.

The Victory were unimpressive in a 3-2 loss at Newcastle on Sunday, particularly with the Jets playing for most of the match with only 10 men.

It was the Victory's second straight loss after their round 21 defeat in Townsville against North Queensland and was further soured by the news Socceroos defender Matthew Kemp will definitely miss next week's visit by Perth after injuring his hamstring.

The defeat also enabled league leaders Sydney to stretch their margin at the top to four points after their goalless draw at Perth in Sunday's late kick-off.

And with just six matches remaining until the finals begin, Merrick knows his team must start to reignite their season before time runs out.

"Very much so, we've got to build up momentum going into the finals," Merrick told reporters.

"This isn't the first time we've come up here prior to finals and lost games, I think in season two we lost 4-0.

"You can't rely on history, we've got the players to do it."

The Jets' win, courtesy of strikes from skipper Matt Thompson and strikers Michael Bridges and Labinot Haliti keeps them in fourth spot, just four points behind the reigning champions.

In between them lie the Jets' next opponents, Gold Coast United, who kept up the pressure on the Victory thanks to Shane Smeltz's late strike against Adelaide United on Saturday.

Reds skipper Travis Dodd had given the visitors the lead at Skilled Stadium, but Smeltz's 19th goal of the season secured a 1-1 draw for United.

But despite Gold Coast now being just a point behind Melbourne, Merrick wasn't pushing a panic button just yet.

"The way you're talking, it's like we're bottom of the league," he said.

"We're second top of the league, we've had a good run, we haven't lost that many games."

In the round's two other matches, Wellington newcomer Eugene Dadi scored twice as Brisbane Roar began life without Craig Moore with a 3-1 loss in New Zealand, and the Central Coast Mariners halted their losing run with a 1-1 draw at home against North Queensland.

Sydney captain Steve Corica said his side was determined to hang onto top spot.

"We set out at the start of the season to finish top," he said.

"We are doing well but we've still got a lot of work to do to finish top."

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