Merrick full of praise for Theo

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has lauded goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos after his team went within minutes of salvaging a point away to Newcastle on Saturday night.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has lauded goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos after his team went within minutes of salvaging a point away to Newcastle on Saturday night.

The Jets laid siege to the visitors' defence in the first 45 minutes, getting the ball inside Victory's box 23 times before the break, before Archie Thompson's dismissal in the 58th minute for dissent made the task even more difficult.

And while Victory did eventually concede a late goal to teenager Marko Jesic in the 85th minute to be cruelly denied any points, Merrick was quick to praise Theoklitos in his return from suspension.

"He certainly kept us in the game," Merrick said. "I thought we would have got a draw with 11 players but I thought Michael was outstanding and it took a terrific shot to beat him."

Captain Kevin Muscat was just as disappointed as Merrick by Jesic's winner in his starting debut, believing that after weathering the first-half storm Victory should justifiably have taken at least a point.

"We were nowhere near we wanted to be and nowhere near where we have been. It's funny - when we went down to 10 men, we probably got on top of them," Muscat said.

"It (Jesic's goal) probably came against the run-of-play because we were playing well in the second half with 10 men but that's just the way it goes. We've got a massive game to look forward to next week now (against Sydney FC) … and you'll see a different Melbourne Victory."

Merrick was also pleased with the rest of his defence and had 'gambled' on forcing a draw after the early onslaught from the resurgent champions.

"I thought the defence were rock solid, even when we went down to 10 men," Merrick told Fox Sports. "With (Grant) Brebner and Billy (Celseki) in the middle, it was pretty solid all round."

"I thought Newcastle pressured us really well and prevented us playing our short passing-type game. But the second half when we had a slight change around in our organisation we got into the game a little bit more."

Merrick also wasn't shocked that the Jets, who his team had beaten 5-0 at Telstra Dome earlier this season as they made a slow start to their defence, hit back so hard on Saturday night.

"We've got a strong line-up, we've got good back-up to come in, but there's no doubt that the bottom team can always beat the top team," he said. "We aim to be in the finals at the end of the season and we haven't changed that."

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.