Soccer: Phoenix can't change the script

By Michael Brown

The Phoenix slumped to their 12th defeat of an insipid season. Photo / Getty Images
The Phoenix slumped to their 12th defeat of an insipid season. Photo / Getty Images

Wellington Phoenix 1
Newcastle Jets 2

It is an oddity of football that a team whose coach is either sacked or resigns often puts in a stirring performance and wins a rare game.

The Wellington Phoenix proved an exception as they slumped to their 12th defeat of an insipid season against Newcastle tonight.

They might not have had Ricki Herbert sitting on the sidelines barking the orders but it was very much the Phoenix of old. They huffed and puffed like they have all season but once again their house came crashing down. They struggled to maintain possession, lacked a cutting edge up front and left plenty of gaps at the back.

The two first-half goals they conceded to Adam Taggart and Michael Bridges came about from poor marking and Newcastle should really have been 4-0 ahead at halftime with former England striker Emile Heskey butchering two brilliant chances.

Newcastle were hardly a team to fear. They came into the match in sixth but had won only two of their last 10 games and had struggled nearly as much as the Phoenix in front of goal. Added to that, they hadn't won in Wellington since 2007.

But they made Wellington look ordinary, which they are at the moment.

Chris Greenacre can hardly be held accountable. The caretaker coach has been in charge for little more than a day but fielded the same starting XI and formation as Herbert did in his final game in charge.

They showed a little spark after the hour when Jeremy Brockie scored his 13th goal of the season with a fantastic left-footed half volley after Louis Fenton's initial strike was well saved.

Brockie is in career-best goal-scoring form and, even though he can drift in an out of matches, has scored some wonderful goals.

Sadly, his teammates haven't followed his lead and they are a team bereft of ideas and confidence.

The Phoenix didn't really threaten for the remainder of the match _ Newcastle defender Andrew Hoole came closest with a skewed clearance that nearly went into his own net and Brockie lashed a shot wide in injury time _ but the Jets had opportunities to kill off the game. Craig Goodwin had two glorious chances, with one well saved by Glen Moss playing his 100th A-League game and the second pulled wide, and Ruben Zadkovich had a glancing header wide.

The Phoenix can now stop talking about the playoffs _ in truth they were out of it weeks ago _ and they will do well now to avoid the wooden spoon for the second time in the club's history.

The promising thing is the landscape will change. Not only will the Phoenix have a new coach next season but nine players are also off contract which presents options. Many of them are players Herbert showed tremendous loyalty to during his more than 150 games in charge.

Recruitment is paramount and it was not always a strength of Herbert, who has been retained by the club as a technical advisor to the board.

Crowds are dwindling, with only 4025 turning up to Westpac Stadium tonight, and the end of the season can't come soon enough for most. The boos were an illustration of that.

Wellington 1 (Jeremy Brockie 60) Newcastle 2 (Adam Taggart 19, Michael Bridges 44). HT: 0-2.


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