Soccer: Phoenix lose another close one

By Daniel Richardson

Mitchell Duke of the Mariners competes with the Phoenix defence. Photo / Getty Images
Mitchell Duke of the Mariners competes with the Phoenix defence. Photo / Getty Images

Mariners 1
Phoenix 0

The script continues to read the same for the Wellington Phoenix.

Ten times this season they've taken the field in the A-League and every game they've been in the contest and produced a collection of goal-scoring chances but ultimately they've come up short.

It was the same again tonight, as they went down 1-0 to the Central Coast Mariners at the North Sydney Oval as they slumped to their sixth loss of the year.

Wellington midfielder Carlos Hernandez was withdrawn from the Phoenix's starting XI due to a thigh injury, although news reports in Australia and New Zealand suggested he was sent home due to a disagreement with the club.

Rookie Jason Hicks was whistled over to Sydney from Wellington at short notice to join the Phoenix and found himself starting in the midfield in place of the Costa Rican international.

Central Coast came in to the game on the back of a 4-0 pasting at the hands of Adelaide United last week and were shorn of their own midfield whiz when All White Michael McGlinchey was declared a late scratching.

Wellington, who are yet to register a win this year, enjoyed the better of the game for the opening 20 minutes but their attempts on goal didn't prove testing enough for Mariners goalkeeper Liam Reddy.

Putting shots on goal is important but they have to do more than sting the palms of the opposing custodian and a player of Reddy's quality was never put out of his comfort zone by the Phoenix as he comfortably dealt with Wellington's advances.

Then, as has happened with alarming regularity this summer, the Phoenix were the first team to concede a goal when All Whites defender Storm Roux pounced on a missed clearance from Ben Sigmund to bang the ball in to the bottom corner of the net in the 27th minute.

It was Roux's first goal in the A-League and his well-timed shot, which offered Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss no chance, proved the difference.

That goal punctuated another dominant period for the visiting Phoenix, who again enjoyed ample possession in the second part of the first spell but couldn't find the killer punches required to get on the score sheet.

The second half brought much of the same, as Wellington continued to press but came up empty-handed.

Roux then turned villain for the Mariners as he fouled Manny Muscat in the box and referee Kris Griffiths-Jones pointed to the penalty spot in the 50th minute.

Without Hernandez, the duties fell to Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems but his meek effort was saved by Reddy.

The missed penalty summed up Wellington's effort as despite their best endeavours they just couldn't score and they've now only mustered nine goals from 10 games this season.

Moss kept the Phoenix in the contest near the hour-mark when he made a freakish save from a Nick Fitzgerald shot, which seemed destined for the back of the net.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick went to his bench during the final 30 minutes as Paul Ifill showed his ability on the ball and tried to bring a creative spark.

Ifill looked to have laid on an equaliser in the 84th minute but Jeremy Brockie put his shot over the crossbar from point-blank range as Merrick was left to wonder what he has to do to get his team in to gear.

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Storm Roux 27) Wellington Phoenix 0 Halftime: 1-0

- APNZ

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