Soccer: Phoenix win no cause for complacency against Jets

By Terry Maddaford

Tim Brown of the Phoenix contests for the ball with Peter Jungschlager of Gold Coast United. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Brown of the Phoenix contests for the ball with Peter Jungschlager of Gold Coast United. Photo / Getty Images

Ricki Herbert left Wellington on Friday on a mission to pick up four of the six points on offer in away matches against east coast sides Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets.

Despite a sometimes jittery effort against Gold Coast, Herbert left Skilled Park with three points safely secured from that 1-0 win and now, one suspects, with his heart set on a repeat at Ausgrid Stadium on Friday night.

While Herbert can be well satisfied with his first win on Australian soil this season, he will still be rueing aspects of the game which could just as easily have gone the other way.

Failure to put the ball in the Gold Coast net in a helter-skelter opening two minutes was one definite chance gone begging. Substitute Jimmy Downey's weak effort when left one-on-one with stand-in goalkeeper Jerrad Tyson added to Herbert's frustration.

At the other end, Mark Paston made a good fist of his return to Hyundai A-League action - somewhat ironically against the team he last played in the season's opening round before missing the second game through injury and finding himself on the bench for the next 14 as Tony Warner wore the gloves.

Paston had to be at his best. He was peppered by a number of shots as United enjoyed a wealth of possession and double the attempts on goal. When Paston was found wanting early in the second half, after spilling a shot from Peter Jungschlager, Manny Muscat was on hand to clear off the line.

Bouncing back from what goal-grabbing hero Tim Brown later described as "our worst performance of the season" (the 1-0 home loss to Perth Glory), the Phoenix were again below par at crucial times and in critical situations but somehow managed to find the energy in the sapping conditions to stay focused and, in the end, snatch a dramatic victory with Brown's 88th-minute header.

That goal, the team's first from a freekick this season, sparked wild scenes on the Phoenix bench and left Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg pondering what might have been.

Brown put the opponents' effort in perspective. "Gold Coast played really well," he said of the team with more shots on goal than any in the league. "But they're bottom of the league."

The win over Gold Coast was not the only result in favour of the Phoenix.

Draws (both 1-1) between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United and leaders Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets in the opening two games of the round kept the Phoenix in the top four. With Perth Glory upsetting Melbourne Heart 2-1 away, the Phoenix were then able to close the gap between themselves and third-placed Heart to just a point.

Losing to Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC missed edging ahead of the Phoenix before the Gold Coast game.

The Heart now have two home games, against the Mariners tomorrow night and the Roar on Saturday. The Jets play the Phoenix on Friday, travelling to Adelaide five days later.

- NZ Herald

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