Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Phoenix held to scoreless draw

Glen Moss of the Phoenix makes a save. Photo / Getty Images
Glen Moss of the Phoenix makes a save. Photo / Getty Images

Phoenix 0 Jets 0
Progress remains slow and steady under new Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.

Following on from their opening-round loss to Brisbane, then a promising 1-1 draw with Western Sydney across the Tasman last week, the Phoenix were held to a 0-0 draw by the Newcastle Jets at McLean Park in Napier today.

Playing in 0-0 draws usually don't suit the Phoenix and they've only been involved in a handful of them in more than 160 A-League games since they were brought to life in 2007.

The Jets are a relatively dour side - they're yet to get on the score sheet in three games this season but they certainly offered enough during today's encounter.

Both teams were in search of their first win of the season and given the congested nature of the A-League ladder in the early stages of the summer, a victory would have seen either outfit make a move.

Neither side could complain with the result though and both were guilty of spurning golden scoring opportunities during the game.

Merrick made an interesting change at halftime as he yanked striker Paul Ifill and inserted Spanish midfielder Albert Riera.

The thinking behind the decision from Merrick was so he could plug the midfield with another body after Newcastle had enjoyed a string of possession in that area during the first 45 minutes.

Newcastle played a pressing style on defence as they looked to limit Wellington's time on the ball.

Wellington's players had little time to react as the Jets scurried around McLean Park at a rapid rate of knots as they aimed to shut down the Phoenix.

The ploy worked for the opening half an hour in particular as the Phoenix struggled to find their way in the to game.

Bar an exciting strike from Carlos Hernandez, which rattled the crossbar in the sixth minute, Newcastle enjoyed the better of the opening stages.

Youngster Andrew Hoole had plenty of time to line up a shot on goal but could only sting the palms of Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss, while Ruben Zadkovich hit the crossbar in the 20th minute from a free kick.

After Zadkovich's shot rattled the bar, Moss made a brilliant follow-up save before Leo Bertos then cleared the ball off the line in a mad-cap sequence, where the Jets seemed destined to score.

Playing at such a high-octane pace on defence was sapping for the Jets though and Wellington eventually wore them down and enjoyed a prosperous period during the back end of the first stanza.

Striker Stein Huysegems should have scored from close range in the 43rd minute but his header was expertly saved by Jets custodian Mark Birighitti.

Birighitti was again at the heart of the action mid-way through the second spell when Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante had a shot blocked from close range by the Newcastle gloveman.

Only moments later, Birighitti was then caught off his line as he came for a cross and didn't make any contact with the ball but Hernandez could only hit the post with his off-balance, left-foot shot with the goal at his mercy.

Eventually both sides seemed pleased with a point as the game meandered to it's death.

Wellington Phoenix 0 Newcastle Jets 0 Halftime: 0-0


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