Daniel Richardson

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

Football: Newcastle down Phoenix

Alex Gorrin of the Phoenix is tackled by Rolando Aarons of Newcastle during the Football United New Zealand Tour match between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle United. Photo / Getty Images.
Alex Gorrin of the Phoenix is tackled by Rolando Aarons of Newcastle during the Football United New Zealand Tour match between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle United. Photo / Getty Images.

We are always told that pre-season is about the performance rather than the result.

With that in mind, the Wellington Phoenix can be pleased with their efforts despite being edged 1-0 by English Premier League side Newcastle United at Westpac Stadium this evening.

Wellington were rarely outplayed and created problems for Newcastle in a game that will have given the Phoenix faithful plenty of reason for optimism after they finished ninth in last season's instalment of the A-League.

Wellington came in to tonight's game on a high, if not slightly fatigued, following their 2-1 victory over West Ham United in Auckland on Wednesday.

Newcastle had the luxury of an extra day's rest after they dispatched Sydney FC 4-0 in Dunedin on Tuesday during the opening encounter of the Football United Tour.

Given the Phoenix's regular pre-season diet of beating up on club sides in Wellington, this week's fixtures have provided Ernie Merrick's men with a stern test.

The A-League doesn't begin until October but playing these games would have given the side something to look forward to as they attempted to break the monotony of their 18-week pre-season.

While these games may be pre-season friendlies, they're also meant to provide a certain level of entertainment and the opening spell did just that as both sides were presented with scoring chances.

Newcastle were able to snap their one up though as Frenchman Yoan Gouffran rose above the pack to head in off the post in the 41st minute.

It would have been a frustrating blow to the Phoenix who had held the visitors well during the early stages, while goalkeeper Glen Moss had made a pair of fantastic saves before Gouffran broke the deadlock.

Jeremy Brockie should have evened the ledger in the 63rd minute but he was unable to find a way past Newcastle custodian Rob Elliot, despite having all sorts of time to pick his spot.

Tom Doyle, who has previously been playing club football in Wellington for the Miramar Rangers, enjoyed another solid outing at left back after looking useful against West Ham on Wednesday and he must be pushing Merrick for a full-time contract.

Fullback, both left and right, were problem positions for Merrick last season and he could do much worse than adding Doyle to his stable of defensive options.

Despite the best endeavours of the Phoenix they were unable to find an equaliser but they can be happy with their week's work.

Earlier in the day, West Ham United completed a miserable tour Down Under, results-wise, as they were upset 3-1 by Sydney FC.

Former Phoenix striker Corey Gameiro scored a goal in each half for the Australian side, while Alex Brosque added one in the middle of Gameiro's brace.

The lead-up to Gameiro's second included a comical miss by the officials as Sydney's Terry Antonis controlled the ball with his arm before putting Gameiro through on goal.

"We'd have been a bit more upset if we'd have been in a league match because it would have been an horrendous mistake," West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said of the missed call.

"I think you all saw it apart from the referee and his linesman ... It was pretty embarrassing from their point of view."

Phoenix management said they wanted a sold-out crowd for today's doubleheader to make the Tour financially viable and while there was a boisterous crowd of 30,968 on hand, the Cake Tin wasn't completely full.

Newcastle United 1 (Yoan Gouffran 41) Wellington Phoenix 0 halftime: 1-0

- APNZ

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