Soccer: Failure to perform on road hurts Nix' playoff hopes

By Terry Maddaford

Dani Sanchez of the Phoenix holds off the defence of Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners. Photo / Getty Images
Dani Sanchez of the Phoenix holds off the defence of Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners. Photo / Getty Images

Lack of form on the road is killing any playoff hopes for the Phoenix.

In eight games across the Tasman in the A-League this season, Wellington have won only once - 3-0 against Newcastle in round seven.

The Phoenix, in eight games, have scored 10 goals but conceded 15 and picked up just five points.

Overall, in 5 seasons in the league, the story is just as bleak for Ricki Herbert and the Phoenix. In 67 away games they have won only 14. On just one occasion, in January/February last season when they edged Gold Coast, Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United by the odd goal, have they won back-to-back on the road.

The repeated trips across the Tasman do play a part but they are not taking advantage when playing at home. The Phoenix have played seven home games this season for just three wins.

In seven home games the Phoenix have scored barely a goal-a-game in sinking nine and at the same time have conceded seven.

Back at Westpac Stadium on Sunday for a second crack at the Western Sydney Wanderers, the Phoenix must hold some hope. They will again be without midfield hard man Manny Muscat as he serves the second of a three-match suspension but will have Tyler Boyd back after his one-match ban.

The referees were again in the spotlight in round 15 matches with a number of coaches bemoaning decisions which were at best dubious.

Phoenix striker Louis Fenton fell to one such call when referee Ben Williams carded him for simulation (diving) when it was clear there was contact.

Worse, the officials got it wrong in Sunday's second match of the weekend at AAMI Park when Melbourne Heart went 2-0 ahead after 35 minutes when Josip Tadic's strike stood despite replays showing he was clearly offside. The Heart went on to win 3-2 over the Brisbane Roar.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic blasted referee Chris Beath for his handling of the game in the 2-0 loss to league leaders Central Coast with Mariners coach Graham Arnold later admitting his team "might have got the rub of the green" from Beath.

The match of round 16 will be Saturday's clash between third-placed Melbourne Victory and the Mariners at Tasmania's Aurora Stadium in Launceston - a ground at which the Victory drew 1-1 with Gold Coast last season.

- NZ Herald

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