Soccer: Phoenix thumped by Jets

By Daniel Richardson

Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix stares at Adam Taggart of the Jets after a referee decision during the round 24 A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.
Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix stares at Adam Taggart of the Jets after a referee decision during the round 24 A-League match between the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.

Wellington Phoenix 0
Newcastle Jets 5

The Wellington Phoenix need to make up four points and work on their goal differential in the final three games of the A-League season if they want to make the playoffs.

Wellington were defeated 5-0 by the Newcastle Jets across the Tasman tonight in a contest that served as close to a `must-win' as you could get.

The situation isn't terminal for Ernie Merrick's side but in their final three outings they host Adelaide United and the Melbourne Victory plus they have an away trip to Sydney FC.

All of those sides sit above the Phoenix on the points table and Merrick's long-held assertion that his men would be involved in the post-season is starting to look less likely.

A mounting injury and suspension toll has weighed heavily on the Phoenix during the past six weeks who have struggled to maintain the momentum they picked up through December and January.

Magic midfielder Carlos Hernandez was again absent for the Phoenix as he battles a calf problem and while he hasn't been at his best recently, Wellington have missed his quality at set piece and his mercurial ability to conjure a goal when nothing seemed to be on.

Michael Boxall moved to central defence to fill in for the suspended Ben Sigmund tonight and it prompted another reshuffle in positions and personnel for the visitors.

Boxall has played largely as a right back this season and he struggled at times with the transition to the heart of defence in a game that was played on an atrocious surface at Hunter Stadium with numerous divots on display.

Combinations are important for any successful sporting team and the Phoenix have rarely been able to call upon a settled starting XI throughout the season.

Tonight's game was one Wellington never threatened to grab hold of and when Emile Heskey grabbed his first goal of the season just after the half-hour mark, the Jets began to slowly take control.

It took the former English international 16 appearances to get his name on the score sheet this summer but it was a timely goal given the Jets are one of the sides scrapping for a top six berth as the season draws to a close.

Goals to Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart inside the first 15 minutes of the second spell settled proceedings for the Jets.

Taggart added another late in the game and the golden boot leader now has 13 goals for the season, two ahead of his nearest rivals, while a late Michael Bridges volley was impressive.

The dominant victory helped Newcastle improve their goal differential, which is now another point of concern for Wellington at -8 as they enter the stretch run.

Sigmund will return next week and Merrick will be hoping Hernandez's calf tear can recover quickly ahead of Sunday's game against Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium.

Newcastle Jets 5 (Emile Heskey 35, Joel Griffiths 46, Adam Taggart 57, 77, Michael Bridges 90+3) Wellington Phoenix 0 Halftime: 1-0

- APNZ

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