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

Soccer: Scoreless draw for Phoenix

Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix is brought down in the tackle of Michael Beauchamp of the Wanderers. Photo / Getty Images
Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix is brought down in the tackle of Michael Beauchamp of the Wanderers. Photo / Getty Images

Phoenix 0 Wanderers 0
The Wellington Phoenix continue to search for that elusive first win of the season after they were held to a 0-0 draw by the Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium today.

Coming in to the game with three losses and as many draws, the Phoenix were just pleased to be back at the Cake Tin after a collection of home-away-from-home games and road fixtures meant they hadn't played on their official home ground in seven weeks.

In a bid to not overwork his younger players, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick rested sophomore left back Reece Caira, which allowed the versatile Manny Muscat to start on the left side of defence.

Merrick made two other changes to last week's line-up that lost 2-1 to Sydney FC with Albert Riera given a start in midfield, while Kenny Cunningham came in for the injured Jeremy Brockie up front.

Western Sydney, who were sitting third on the A-League ladder coming in to the game, didn't appear terribly interested in chasing a result and sat back for a lot of the contest as they seemed comfortable attacking on the counter.

Such tactics from the Wanderers invited the Phoenix in to the game, particularly during the second spell, as the home side began to slowly enjoy the run of the race but they couldn't find a winning goal.

Merrick went to his bench around the hour mark as he looked to inject some pace and creativity in to the game through the likes of Paul Ifill and Tyler Boyd.

Despite being on the back foot for much of the second spell, Wanderers forward Mark Bridge had a golden chance to collect the points in the 77th minute but sprayed his shot well over the bar.

Minutes later, Phoenix striker Boyd had a clear shot of his own but only stung the palms of Wanderers custodian Ante Covic who made a comfortable save and he was again tested shortly after as Ifill hit a strong shot in Covic's direction but the goalkeeper was up to the task.

The best chance of the game for Wellington came in the opening spell.

Phoenix midfielder Carlos Hernandez, who later left the ground limping in the 64th minute, was put through on goal in the 24th by Stein Huysegems but the Costa Rican international put his close-range attempt well wide with the net at his mercy.

Encouragingly for the Phoenix, striker Cunningham continued to look lively after he opened his A-League scoring account during last week's loss to Sydney FC.

The Costa Rican forward struggled to find his way during the early rounds of the season but is becoming more accustomed to the style of play Down Under and is beginning to build links with his fellow Phoenix players.

Today's result marked the second 0-0 draw the Phoenix have played out this season and Merrick's men are still looking for a decisive outing in front of goal.

Wellington head to Perth next Friday to meet the Glory in Western Australia.


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