Soccer: Phoenix need win for play-offs spot

By Terry Maddaford

The Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
The Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images

Victory over the Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Saturday night would guarantee Ricki Herbert's Wellington Phoenix their spot in the top six and place in the play-offs.

If that, and other results continue to go their way, the Phoenix are still a shot at finishing second, or, in their wildest dreams, first as they play leaders Central Coast Mariners at home in their last regular season outing.

Adelaide United, beaten 2-0 at home in the round 24 opener, have joined Gold Coast United as teams with no chance of making the play-offs.

Interestingly, after the first two rounds of the new season in which only the Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory, now in second and fourth place respectively, won both their opening games of the new Hyundai A-League season, Adelaide were in equal fourth place (with Newcastle Jets) and the Gold Coast were sixth. The Phoenix, with a draw and a win were third - exactly their position now.

Central Coast are the only team assured of a place in the top six but it would need a catastrophic run in the last three matches for Brisbane not to make it. The Phoenix, too, would need to lose dramatically not to be around for the business end of the season.

Melbourne Victory remain a longshot to reach the play-offs.

The big-spending, high profile outfit continue to disappoint - their loss at home to the Newcastle Jets the Victory's eighth of the season. It is little wonder why the fans often ponder what has gone wrong.

The club, in their profound wisdom, sacked the most successful manager in A-League history when Ernie Merrick, who steered them to two championships and was twice named coach of the year, was shown the door at the end of last season.

In came former Socceroo Mehmet Durakovic but he lasted only 14 games after winning just three before he too was booted out. Irishman Jim Magilton, 42, was brought in as what the club and fans hoped would be their saviour.

After Kevin Muscat guided the team to a 2-1 home win in the interim, Magilton took over - handed a contract until the end of the season. He has also struggled. From nine games in charge he has won only once, somewhat ironically 2-1 over Central Coast.

Needing to win their last three games to have any even remote chance of reaching the play-offs, the Victory are away to bitter rivals Sydney FC on Saturday, are at home to the Phoenix a week later and end the regular season away to Perth.

That game against the Phoenix will be vital to both teams with the Wellington side, who will spend a week in the Victorian capital, still in the hunt for a top two finish and the benefits that go with it. The Victory just want to win and go some way to appeasing what still remains the biggest fan base in the league.

- NZ Herald

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