Soccer: Nix can still manage to nick place in playoffs

By Terry Maddaford

The Phoenix should be buoyed by their run to the finish. Photo / File
The Phoenix should be buoyed by their run to the finish. Photo / File

The Wellington Phoenix still hold on to hope of the last playoff spot, despite their limp 0-2 away loss to Brisbane on Sunday leaving them six points adrift of sixth place.

The Phoenix should be buoyed by their run to the finish.

Of their six remaining games, four are at home with the trip to Perth one of their remaining transtasman crossings. The other is against high-flying debutants Western Sydney on March 10.

The anticipation in having four games at home - three at Westpac Stadium and one under the roof at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium - against Melbourne Heart on March 3 - is tempered in that the first three will be played in an eight-day stretch from Sunday with the brought forward game against Newcastle sandwiched between clashes with Adelaide and the Heart.

The Newcastle game was brought forward at the Phoenix request to avoid the All Whites World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia scheduled for March 22, also in Dunedin.

In stumbling 1-2 at Perth, Central Coast had their lead trimmed to a point by the Wanderers who beat Melbourne Victory 2-1 away.

With the Victory now six points out of the lead with six to play, the March 2 clash at Gosford between Central Coast and Western Sydney is a potential minor premiership decider.

Graham Arnold, last season's coach of the year and at the Central Coast club since the start of the 2010-11 season, tagged the loss at nib Stadium as "the worst performance in my time at the Mariners".

That Shane Smeltz returned to goalscoring form would not have helped Arnold's humour.

Melbourne Victory, one of three teams to lose 1-2 on Saturday, face the Mariners in the late game on Saturday, the match of the round.

The Phoenix meet Adelaide in Sunday's early game, having lost 1-3 to that side twice this season.

Sydney FC travel to Melbourne Heart in the last game of the 22nd round.

- NZ Herald

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