Phoenix "gutted" by Sky Blues loss

24 November 2013 06:32:49 EST

Coach Ernie Merrick admitted their last-gasp 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC left Wellington Phoenix’s players ready to weep.

The Phoenix played well for much of the game at Allianz Stadium, and looked to have earned a point when Kenny Cunningham scored an injury-time equaliser.

But while Merrick praised his side for their performance, he had no doubts it was their wasteful finishing in front of goal that cost them as Ranko Despotovic sealed the game for Sydney deep into injury time.

"There was probably a whole team of grown men wanting to cry to be honest, that's how gutted we were," Merrick said.

The Wellington coach says his side probably spent more time practising finishing than any other A-League side. But six goals in six matches is down on what he expects, and there were plenty of missed opportunities against the Sky Blues.

The visitors managed 20 shots to 15 and forced 12 corners to three but were left with nothing to show for their efforts and are still searching for their first win of the campaign.

While Cunningham produced his first goal for the club, he could have had another but hit the post.

Vince Lia ballooned a diving header over the bar from close range 14 minutes from time, and Jeremy Brockie – who had missed a penalty for New Zealand in midweek – blasted over from a good position in the first half.

"If you don't take your chances you can be punished like that," said Merrick. "Overall we had enough chances to win that game, we've only got ourselves to blame.

"But I'm going to praise the boys for their performance, it's very unusual for me to say that. I thought our possession play right through the game for 90 minutes was very good."

The Phoenix coach added: "We pride ourselves in doing more finishing practice at training than probably any other team in the league and we'll keep doing that."

Wellington Phoenix are 3/1 to beat Western Sydney Wanderers, who are 10/11.

Sydney FC are 7/5 to beat Newcastle Jets, who are 9/5.

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