Wellington Phoenix 2
Newcastle Jets 0
The Wellington Phoenix have snapped a four-game winless streak, beating the Newcastle Jets 2-0 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Goals either side of halftime from front-men David Ball and Ben Waine were enough to earn Wellington three points and lift them from the bottom of the A-League ladder.
It was a much-needed result for Wellington, who have struggled for consistency this season, but produced a workmanlike performance to claim just a second win and first clean sheet of the campaign.
In contrast to many of their outings this season, the Phoenix ceded the majority of possession and territory and spent much of the first half in particular blocking, scrambling and fighting to keep their goal intact. Goalkeeper Oli Sail, again preferred to Stefan Marinovic, was called into action to deny Roy O'Donovan early in the game and saved at the feet of Nikolai Topor-Stanley shortly afterwards. Early in the second spell he caught the eye again, flying to his right to push a Valentino Yuel header around the post.
At the other end, Ulises Davila and Reno Piscopo looked most likely to create chances for the Phoenix and both were involved in the opening goal, exchanging passes on the edge of the penalty area before Ball – back in the side after serving a two-game suspension – found the net with the help of a wicked deflection off defender Nigel Boogaard.
Wellington's second came from a Newcastle error, with Johnny Koutroumbis mis-controlling a ball on the edge of his own area. The ball fell to teenaged Kiwi Waine who gleefully found the bottom corner of the net with an unerring right-footed finish from distance to notch his second A-League goal.
Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay shuffled his deck, bringing Josh Laws, Clayton Lewis and Ball into the starting side, with James McGarry and Mirza Muratovic dropping to the bench and Cam Devlin absent with illness.
The Jets, unbeaten in their last five games, grew increasingly frustrated in their quest for a goal, conceding needless free-kicks and failing to consistently trouble Sail. Wellington's defence – marshalled expertly by Tim Payne and Liam McGing – soaked up the pressure and safely negotiated Newcastle's occasional threats.
Aside from his goal, Ball's energy was critical, while Israeli marquee Tomer Hemed also returned from a three-game injury-enforced absence, replacing Waine in the second half.
While lacking the free-flowing hallmarks of the football Talay has encouraged his side to play since his arrival, the manner in which they ground out victory will have brought him equal parts satisfaction and relief.
The Phoenix now have a week to prepare for the visit of high-flying Perth Glory next Sunday.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Ball 22', Waine 53')
Newcastle Jets 0