Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Football: Phoenix slump goes from bad to worse

Roly Bonevacia. Photo / Getty Images.
Roly Bonevacia. Photo / Getty Images.

Newcastle Jets 3
Wellington Phoenix 1

The Wellington Phoenix travelled to Newcastle with dreams of resurrecting their stuttering mid-season slump, but a limp 3-1 loss to the Jets has seen their A-League plight move from troubled to desperate.

The result was bad against a struggling Newcastle side who hadn't won in 10 games, but the performance was more concerning. The Phoenix pinched a late consolation goal through Matt Ridenton, but after a disappointingly flat first half and a scrappy second, it's hard to see where the goals are going to come from for the remainder of the Phoenix season.

The Phoenix dominated possession (67%) and passes completed, but in the attacking third they were plain blunt. Their slow, measured build up allowed the Jets to quickly regroup deep in their half, and the loss of Roy Krishna to injury for three months has taken away their pacey threat on the counter attack.

When the Jets went 2-0 up after 25 minutes, only the most optimistic Phoenix fan would have seen a way back.

There was a moment of hope 15 minutes into the second half when Jets midfielder Ben Kantarovski collected his second yellow for a clumsy tackle. But before the Phoenix could use their advantage the Jets had made it 3-0 and the jig was up.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick insists that he is content with his stable of attackers for the remainder of the A-League season, but the excellent Roly Bonevacia is desperately in need of some higher quality support.

At their best, earlier in the season the Phoenix were an exciting, entertaining team to watch. They had pace, purpose and creativity and Merrick looked like he had the combination of Krishna, Bonevacia and McGlinchey just right for a playoffs push. But they have now lost their way and surely a new goal scoring striker is needed to replace Krishna.

The Phoenix were given a glimmer of hope ten minutes from time, when Ridenton pulled a goal back with a crisp finish, but despite a late onslaught of attack, the damage was insurmountable.

There were problems at the back for the Phoenix too. With first choice defenders Ben Sigmund and Louis Fenton out injured and Manny Muscat still suspended, the Phoenix back four has undertaken a drastic makeover in recent weeks and centre back Dylan Fox, who was superb on debut against the Brisbane Roar last weekend, had a difficult night.

Fox was caught on the wrong side of Miloš Trifunovic from a cross into the box in the 6th minute and pulled the striker down for a penalty, which Trifunovic converted. It was the Jets' first goal in 566 minutes of A-League football, which took them dangerously close to breaking the New Zealand Knights record of 607 minutes set in 2006.

The Phoenix back four were easily exposed again 20 minutes later when a through ball easily split the defence which led to the Jet's second through Ryan Kitto. Carney made the result safe midway through the second half, slotting a clinical finish past Glen Moss after being played through one on one.

The Phoenix finished strongly against the tiring ten men, missing four half chances that prevented a nervy finish for the Jets.

Life doesn't get any easier for the Phoenix who next travel to face the fourth placed Melbourne City next Monday. The Phoenix haven't won an away game since October last year and are now four points off the top six.

Newcastle Jets 3 (Miloš Trifunovic, Ryan Kitto, David Carney)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Matthew Ridenton)
(2-0 HT)

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