Selection headache good for Ernie

It is the one headache Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick says he’s quite happy to have.

It is the one headache Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick says he’s quite happy to have.

The cause – trying to fit Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez, Robbie Kruse and Danny Allsopp into the Victory starting side.

The attacking quartet will be given an audition ahead of the A-League finals series when Victory plays Adelaide United at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

But it won’t be a long one, as Thompson and Hernandez are making their returns from injury via the bench as the coach elects to stick with the team that has won their past three matches.

“I don-t want to change the starting 11 too much. I thought we would take this opportunity to suss out a team we could meet in the finals either week one or week two,” Merrick said.

“Given we’ve won the last three games without conceding a goal, those players are playing well and will be rewarded. I’m not going to change that at this stage – everyone’s got to earn their spot.”

“It’s not a bad bench – Carlos Hernandez, Surat Sukha, Archie Thompson and Seb Mattei.”

On top of the fab four, Brazilian import Ricardinho, the emerging Mate Dugandzic, evergreen Tom Pondeljak and Marvin Angulo are also pressing to be in the attacking selection mix come finals time.

“We’ve got quality goalscorers in our side – that makes a big difference in football,” Merrick said.

“To have Robbie Kruse, Carlos Hernandez, Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp and Ricardinho competing for spots is a dream for a coach and a great headache to have.”

“In the midfield at the moment we’ve got three attacking midfielders in Tom Pondeljak, Mate Dugandzic and Marvin Angulo, and they are playing really well.”

The return of Thompson, who missed nine matches due to a hamstring injury sustained shortly after scoring against Perth Glory in December, is timely and the coach is rapt to have the marquee man back.

“Archie’s just determined to get on the field,” Merrick said.

“To me he’s one of the best strikers that’s ever played in the A-League, he’s always going to have a major impact whether it’s for 15 or 20 minutes off the bench or 90 minutes.”

“He’s a huge, huge addition to a squad like ours, especially with the midfield we’ve got and the way we’ve been able to integrate our younger players who 12 months ago were hardly known.”

For all the inclusions, the Victory goes to Adelaide without influential midfielders Grant Brebner and Billy Celeski, who are both tipped to return for the opening week of the finals.

Victory are unbeaten in their last five matches and meet the Reds at a time when Adelaide have gone three matches without a win.

Adding extra spice is the fact Adelaide could slip to fourth if Gold Coast upsets Brisbane Roar and the Reds either lose or draw.

While a Victory win over the Reds and heavy defeat for Gold Coast would see the Melbourne boys climb up to fourth, earning a home final, and keep Adelaide in third spot.