Soccer: Phoenix draw with Jets

By Daniel Richardson

Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images

When the Wellington Phoenix can't beat the Newcastle Jets at home then there's something desperately wrong.

Phoenix victories against the Jets at Westpac Stadium have been regular as clockwork in recent seasons and in 10 previous matches between the teams at the Cake Tin, Wellington had won nine since the A-League was formed in 2007.

Today's 1-1 draw will have done nothing to turn down the pressure gauge on the club who are rooted to the bottom of the A-League ladder after 18 rounds.

They lacked inspiration this afternoon and look short of ideas as the side grapples with trying to implement a new playing style while searching for on-field results at the same time.

A sun-drenched Westpac Stadium greeted both teams today, who played in front of a small crowd of 6429.

The Phoenix have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately between their outspoken co-owner Gareth Morgan, underperforming players and a record-setting 7-1 loss to Sydney FC last weekend.

Morgan's comments during the week in which he labelled the attitude of some of the club's fans as 'pathetic' didn't go down well with the club's faithful supporters.

Before the start of the game the Yellow Fever unravelled two banners, one that was a replica of a Phoenix scarf and the other that said 'Don't Stop Believin' in bold letters.

During the game the fans were on their feet as a chant erupted of "If you love the cats stand up" - a reference to Morgan's calls during the week to eradicate domestic cats because of the damage they do to New Zealand's birdlife.

The first half was largely uneventful but did provide the crucial go-ahead goal for the Phoenix in the 22nd minute.

Louis Fenton was first on the scene to tap in from close range after a well-timed Paul Ifill cross was deflected by Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti in to Dani Sanchez.

Only minutes earlier Jeremy Brockie had the best chance of the game to break the deadlock after he beat the offside trap and was put through on goal by Ben Sigmund but Brockie failed to find his range and Birighitti made a slick save with his head.

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante and Mark Paston found themselves in a mix-up at the back on the half-hour mark but crisis was averted as Paston managed to scramble the ball away when the Jets seemed certain to score.

Newcastle lost defender Samuel Gallaway in the 55th minute when he was shown a second yellow card after he took down Tyler Boyd on the edge of the box but Ifill could only put his free kick straight in to the wall.

Emile Heskey then brought the Jets level after the Phoenix went down to 10 men when Tony Lochhead was given his second yellow card.

From the ensuing free kick Heskey was first to the ball in a goalmouth scramble and Paston should have done more to deny Heskey the chance to hit his header.

Herbert went to his bench in the final 15 minutes but the home side couldn't find a way through as their frustrating run of form continued.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Louis Fenton 22) Newcastle Jets 1 (Emile Heskey 73) HT: 1-0

- APNZ

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