Merrick wants positive approach
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick spent the week accentuating the positive as he prepared his team for the visit by the stung Western Sydney Wanderers.
Winless after six games, Merrick admits there is a risk his players will begin to struggle with their self-belief in the A-League if they can't notch three points at home on Sunday.
That is no easy task for the ninth-placed club against last year's beaten finalists who are residing in second although coming off their first defeat of the season.
The table-topping 3-1 loss to leaders Brisbane Roar and the absence this weekend of star duo Shinji Ono (groin) and Youssouf Hersi (foot) will only serve to stiffen the Wanderers' resolve.
"They've been playing most of the season without those players anyway," Merrick said.
"They're rock solid in the middle of the park and I'd have to say I'm impressed with Tony Popovic as a coach."
Merrick says his early struggles aren't playing on his mind yet but is wary that his players' nerves will begin to fray.
"My patience is good and that's why I've been in coaching this long," he said.
"But I'm continually urging the boys to take another step forward, rather than going on the back foot.
"Their confidence is something that's going to be challenged throughout the year."
Merrick says it was only poor finishing that denied them a win away to Sydney FC last weekend.
After clawing back to 1-1, he was impressed at how they kept pursuing a win rather than play for a draw.
They were caught out in the fourth and final minute of injury time when Ranko Despotovic struck the winner for Sydney.
"They were devastated by the result but I think they were happy with the way they were playing," Merrick said.
"To create that many goalscoring chances and not win was the toughest thing.
"We didn't lose the game on the last kick of the ball. We lost the game by missing so many good goalscoring opportunities."
Merrick says that sustained approach to attack marks a turning point for his team, who haven't always been fluent going forward this season or last.
They weren't in awe of Italian great Alessandro Del Piero, denying him access to the ball through their own effective passing game.
"We kept it going for 90 minutes and that shows me that the boys are gaining more and more confidence in whoever they're playing," Merrick said.
"Del Piero really didn't bother us at all. It's about how we play rather than how the opposition play."