After a 2-1 defeat to Melbourne Victory in round 13 of the 2018/19 A-League season, Newcastle Jets manager Ernie Merrick admits that his side is currently not scoring enough goals, as the ticket to the finals series by means of the coveted 6th place finish might be too far out of reach.

The Jets kicked off the Saturday night fixture with knowledge of a spectacular Central Coast Mariners’ collapse over at Westpac Stadium earlier in the evening has essentially widened the berth to seven points.

“I think no doubt the gap is getting bigger,” Merrick said, lauding praise on Wellington Phoenix, seemingly daring his side to replicate The Nix’s exploits.

“Wellington Phoenix, they won again, they’re playing well, scoring goals and winning games.

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot, playing so well and we concede goals, we’re not scoring enough, last year we’ve scored on a regular basis, this year we’ve struggled.”

Image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

Melbourne Victory opened their account of the day three minutes after Daniel Elder’s whistle kick-started the second half, a slick backheel from Kenny Athiu saw Terry Antonis slide it past a gaping Jets backline into a similarly gaping goal. A goalmouth scramble saw the Jets equalise late, but were ultimately put to the sword with James Troisi’s rocket into the roof of the net.

“In the 84th minute we got caught out again by Troisi, we should have cleared the ball but we didn’t clear it properly and we get punished for this sort of things this year,” Merrick lamented.

“We get to the penalty box and the finish is not there, it’s a problem we had all year, we seem to have twice as many opportunities as opposition teams but we don’t have the qualities and that was the difference.

“I thought it was a good performance overall but good performances have got to come now, we got to get three points on a regular basis.”

Image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Muscat – Merrick feud no end in sight

True to his words, Victory’s head honcho Kevin Muscat wished his managerial counterpart well before the match, but admitted that it was uncustomary for the home side’s manager to initiate the handshake.

“We didn’t have a discussion, but I went across before the game to acknowledge the opposing coach,” Kevin Muscat noted.

“Strange because everywhere I’ve been, whether it’s been Marcello Lippi or Sven-Göran Eriksson, when you play away, when we’re the away team, they come across and acknowledge you.

“That’s what I’ve learnt, that’s what I’ve always done.”

Fans might want to keep the 2nd of March free, for that is where the pair could lock horns again.

Image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

King Kenny key

Fan favourite Kenny Athiu was the surprise inclusion of the day, taking the place of Kosta Barbarouses, who was later revealed to be still recovering from a flu bout. It was only the former NPL star’s second start this season, his first one dating back to Victory’s second game of the season, where they lost 3-2 to Perth Glory.

His industrious workrate and physicality up front failed to fully pay off dividends in an uneventful first half, but his performance never waned in the second, and he was rewarded with his first assist of the campaign, deliciously nudging a ball into the path of Antonis’ sweet left peg.

“Kenny’s first touch for the goal, he’s got that in him, and he’s building strength, endurance, to have the wits about him,” Muscat said.

Image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

“The conditioning and hard work with Anthony Crea (Victory’s Head of High Performance) has paid off because it was a sublime touch and it was an excellent goal.

“He showed that side of his game if you recall some of his performances in the Champions League last season.”

Antonis’ curler would’ve taken the plaudits from observers for Victory’s first goal, but Muscat insists credit will go to Kenny this time out.

Feature image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Journalism undergrad at Monash University, Kai is a multimedia journalist covering Melbourne Victory. Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Once "stole" Shinji Kagawa's plane ticket.