The Newcastle Jets beat Canberra Olympic 5-0 in a trial at Deakin Stadium on Tuesday night, but coach Ernie Merrick said the score flattered his side.
Wayne Brown scored two “high-quality” goals in the first 16 minutes before the Jets lost their way against the Capital Football premiers.
“I thought the rest of the first half we were pretty flat,” Merrick said after the game.
“I think the boys were a bit tired because we’d trained very heavily. It sounds like it was one-sided, but it wasn’t.
“I thought we didn’t play good football and they made life tough for us after those two goals. We went for a long period giving away the ball and trying too many long passes, so I had a bit of a go at the boys at half-time.”
Merrick said he had given all his players the chance to rest in the second half but none had taken up the offer.
“They started playing much better football in the second half, playing more of a short passing game, particularly through the midfield,” he said.
“Canberra Olympic certainly made life tough for us, particularly in that first half.”
Substitute Joe Champness also scored a double after coming on in the last 25 minutes after striker Roy O’Donovan had scored in the 50th minute.
Merrick opted for Ivan Vujica at left back and Daniel Georgievski at right back, relegating Jason Hoffman to the bench. Hoffman had a back complaint, but Merrick said Vujica had earned his place in the starting side after a strong game against Melbourne City last week.
“It’s competition for places. When he got his chance last week he did really well when Jason was injured, and I’ll keep giving boys a start who I think deserve a start.
“No one should be guaranteed a spot unless they’re an outstanding player who’s a regular goalscorer.”
Merrick had suggested on Monday that Dimitri Petratos could be a long-term option as an attacking midfielder after impressing there in the 3-1 win over City.
But instead Merrick started Petratos on the wing and handed Brown another opportunity at No.10, and the Englishman repaid his faith.
Newcastle will face Sydney FC and Wellington at home this month before the A-League season kicks off in early October.