Ernie Merrick said “I won’t be making wholesale changes, that is not my style” but the championship-winning coach has warned the Newcastle Jets that the insipid display against Melbourne City was unacceptable.
The 3-0 loss to City was the Jets’ biggest loss of the season and left them in seventh place.
Two of City’s goals – a snap shot by Riley McGree in the second minute and a stunning Luke Brattan-volley in the 45th – were world class but that didn’t mask the Jets “lack of competitive spirit”.
“I was not so much disappointed by the loss,” Merrick said. “There were a couple of very high-quality goals. I was disappointed by our approach to the game and a lack of competitive determination to win the ball. I don’t mind conceding goals as long as there is competition for the ball. We seem to have forgotten what it takes to win the ball. That was just not good enough.
“To their credit, it is the first time I can recall them playing like that. It’s not all doom and gloom.”
Merrick expects to have Jair (hip flexor) and possibly Kaine Sheppard available for the clash against Brisbane Roar at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
“Jair had a cortisone injection to help the healing process and hopefully that will help relieve the issue with his hip flexor,” Merrick said. “Kaine Sheppard might be fit. Johnny didn’t get a run but he is getting fitter and in midfield Matt Ridenton is getting fitter. There is a bit of competition. Mitch Austin got 90 minutes under his belt for the youth team and played well. We have players who can come in and give us a boost if we need them.
“But I won’t make wholesale changes, that is not my style. There is always maybe a change here or there. It won’t be isolated to one or two players, it is a team effort.“
Merrick will put the players through a video review of the loss but believed the issue was as much mental as technical.
“There is technique involved in competing for the ball and in positioning,” he said. “I can work on the technical side, they have to work on the mental side of wanting to win the ball more than the opposition.”
It was the second game in six rounds that the Jets have been held to nil.
They created 11 shots but just three were on target. They have scored just five goals in six matches.
This time last season they had netted 15 goals and were sitting on top of the ladder with 14 points.
“When we played football [against City] we looked like we could have done something, but there was nothing at the end of it,” Merrick lamented. “When you score a goal and there is something at the end of it, the game changes and everyone gets a boost of confidence. Last year we would have scored. Someone like Andrew Nabbout would have popped up and scored or Joey Champness would score or Dimi … someone would score. We didn’t score so we were under the pump again in the second half.”
Four of the Jets’ opening six games have been on the road and Merrick was looking forward to playing in front of home fans on Sunday.
“I’m not looking for any excuses, but we have had a tough start to the season, given four of the six have been away, and the two at home were against two of the top teams,” Merrick said. “The draw wasn’t particularly favourable.
“Our football has been pretty good without getting results. But we have to start getting results. It is great that we can play in front of our home crowd. That will definitely be a boost. There is no doubt that the players are more comfortable at home in front of a supportive crowd, and the Newcastle fans have been terrific. We need that because they will help us get over the line as well.”