Soccer: Phoenix draw with league leaders

Wellington Phoenix again rued their lack of finishing as they drew 0-0 with Gold Coast United in an A-League soccer match on the Gold Coast last night.

The Phoenix dominated the match against the competition leaders at Skilled Park, with more than three times as many shots on goal, but couldn't put them away.

It was the fifth consecutive draw for coach Ricki Herbert's eighth-placed side, equalling the A-League record set by Melbourne in 2007-08.

All White Leo Bertos, the Phoenix's standout as he celebrated being signed for another three years, summed up their frustration.

"That's the way it's been going the last few weeks. We've been playing really well but we just haven't seemed to put the ball in the back of the net and get the three points we've been searching for, and deserved to get," he told Fox Sports.

Overall it was a disappointing spectacle before a season-low crowd of 4209, with United striker Shane Smeltz having precious few chances against his old club to add to his nine goals for the season.

It was United's fourth winless match in a row and will likely see them lose the competition lead they held for seven of the first eight rounds.

There was some distraction for both sides, with six Phoenix players and Smeltz boarding a flight early tomorrow to prepare for their away World Cup qualifier against Bahrain next weekend.

There was also some angst at the state of the playing surface, which was dry and uneven and required a pre-match inspection before being given the green light.

The visitors had the better of a scoreless first half where Bertos created several chances and captain Andrew Durante marshalled a physical defensive effort.

Chris Greenacre had the Phoenix's best chance of the half from a Bertos corner, and should have done better with his header when unmarked.

Bertos' powerful free kick was saved by United keeper Jess Vanstrattan in the 27th minute, then soon afterwards Bertos weaved from inside his own half but pushed his left foot shot just wide.

Smeltz had few looks in the first half and was ruled offside several times, while United's best scoring chance came in stoppage time when Matt Osman worked clear but Mark Paston saved well.

The pattern continued in the second half, with United tentative on attack and the Phoenix looking more likely to score.

But their familiar struggles to finish continued, as Daniel headed against the crossbar in the 61st minute and defender Ben Sigmund had a shot cleared off the line.

When striker Paul Ifill and Bertos slammed shots over the bar in quick succession it seemed, again, it wouldn't be the Phoenix's night.

- NZPA

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