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Ernie Merrick was full of praise for his side after Wellington Phoenix fought back to claim a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has praised his side's newfound character after overcoming an early deficit to secure a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday.
The hosts were totally dominant in the opening 25 minutes and led 1-0 after an early Jerome Polenz strike, but the Phoenix rallied with a goal to Jeremy Brockie on the hour to steal a point.

"It (character) is something we've been talking about, they're well aware they finished at the bottom of the league last (season) and didn't do very well on the road at all," Merrick said.

"I thought they did well. Once we knocked the ball around with Carlos (Hernandez), Vince (Lia), Manny (Muscat) and Jason it made a huge difference to our team.

"It's about playing football and trying to stop the long ball playing out from the back and to their credit they were first class.

"Before you can improve with your feet, you've got to improve upstairs.

"I thought last week we should have ground out a draw and this week we did it, that's a big improvement regarding mental toughness."

Meanwhile, Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic admitted he was disappointed with the result but insisted there was a lot to like about the Wanderers' performance.

"We're sitting here disappointed but there were some good signs there, it's early in the year and we've got to build on that," Popovic said.

"Players are always disappointed when they don't win a game, but it's not all doom and gloom.

"We've just got to pick ourselves up and prepare ourselves for a great derby game that's coming up (against Sydney FC).

"It was very pleasing the first 20 to 25 minutes and we played some great football, so we were pleased and we showed some progression in certain areas of our game.

"We probably are a little disappointed we didn't kill off the game at that point when we were on top.

"We fell away after that and let them back into the game which is disappointing and in the end they've got some good players going forward and we got punished."

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