Wellington Phoenix pulled off one of the upsets of the season when they beat high-flying Newcastle Jets on Saturday night.

There are a number of reasons that could have contributed to such a shock result but one aspect stood out amongst the rest and it involves a player who Jets’ coach Ernie Merrick signed when he was at the helm at Wellington.

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Phoenix deployed Matthew Ridenton to man-mark Newcastle star Dimitri Petratos in what is one of the oldest tricks in the managerial book but one that had the Jets scratching their heads and unable to combat it on the occasion. 

The home side never really did in the end and the Nix held on for a famous victory that leaves them with seven points from their last three games and within just five points of sixth place.

Coach Darije Kalezić didn’t mention the man-marking tactic specifically but alluded to it following the match, saying his players set the tone for a confident display early on. 

“We want players who don’t play reactive football but players who know exactly what they are going to do,” Kalezic said.

“These are players who are proactive and quality.”

The ploy to keep Petratos quiet on the night was obvious to anyone watching with the play-maker unable to pull the strings for his side and whose only meaningful shot on goal came from the penalty spot just minutes from full time.

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Jets coach Ernie Merrick was left frustrated by the response of the number 7’s teammates around and ahead of him who really failed to take make the most of the work Petratos was doing off the ball.

“Phoenix dedicated a player in Ridenton to take Dimi out of the game and he did that very effectively,” Merrick said.

“But when Dimi pulled him out of the middle we had no one coming in to take advantage of that space. I was a bit disappointed that another midfielder or striker didn’t take advantage.”

There is a glimmer of hope for Jets fans if a future opponent is to use the same tactics again with a host of stars still to return from injury.

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“Can you imagine marking Dimi because then who is going to mark Ronny Vargas or Pato Rodriguez?” said Merrick

“We’ve got too many good players for that keep working. I’m glad it’s happening now and not in the finals but we have to learn to cope with it.”

The overall result will perhaps carry more frustration for Merrick who signed Ridenton for Wellington back in 2013.

“It’s good to see Matt doing well. I just wish he hadn’t done so well today.”

 

Featured image photo credit to Sproule Sports Focus

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Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan