The Newcastle Jets were forced to grind out a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Adelaide last night and although their coach admits the victory was ugly, he sees credentials in his side similar to those of previous championship outfits he has managed.

Goals either side of half time from Ben Kantarovski and Andrew Nabbout were enough to claim the pudding for Merrick’s side after Nikola Mileusnic’s opener for the Reds.

The win moves the undefeated team to 14 points from six matches and although the former Wellington and Melbourne Victory coach was not beaming post-match, he was satisfied with the result.

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“I wouldn’t call it a great victory, it was a pretty average performance,” Merrick conceded.

“For the first half an hour we were just chasing our tails; we couldn’t keep the ball. So we made a couple of midfield changes and it turned around.

“It wasn’t a great game of football, but its probably better winning ugly then losing pretty.”

The champion coach particularly stressed the importance of player mindset.

“I got a lot more from the boys’ mental approach and attitude rather than their technical ability, which wasn’t really on display for long periods,” Merrick stressed.

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“But to absorb that much pressure and only concede one goal and then come back and be strong in the second half deserves full credit.

“Our backup players [for Georgevski and Vargas] are mostly pretty young lads, but they all seem to be doing a job.”

With Ronny Vargas out till at least late February, the No. 10 role has been filled by Dimi Petratos with the former Brisbane attacker earning consecutive man-of-the-match awards for his last two outings.

This certainly pleased his coach.

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Though unfortunately, with success comes responsibility and with the Jets in such an unexpected position, questions are swirling over their title credentials.

But the experienced Ernie is certainly keeping a level-head.

“I see the right ingredients. When I won my first championship, we won our first seven games, so I think you’ve got to have a good start.

“The difference is I don’t know if we have depth where it counts, so the last three or four games of the year and in the finals we really need to have players fit and ready to go,” admitted the Newcastle coach.

“We’re only six games in, so we’re keeping grounded. Whether we are top or not, it’s just about collecting the three points each week.”

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Adelaide-based writer, content creator and story-teller. Like one of those determined ants that require a second flick.