News from Wellington Phoenix
A second-half header from Newcastle Jets striker Emile Heskey denied Wellington Phoenix a much-needed win as the teams battled to a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium today. Both sides ended the physical encounter with 10 men after Jets defender Sam Gallaway and Phoenix left-back Tony Lochhead each picked up two yellow cards to earn early baths.
Lochhead’s departure was the more costly of the two as Heskey scored the Jets’ equaliser from the resulting free-kick, given for a foul on James Virgili.
That scrambled goal in the 74th minute cancelled out Louis Fenton’s 21st-minute effort for Wellington and leaves the New Zealand club still stuck at the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
After last week’s capitulation the Phoenix had promised to show the grit, determination and fighting spirit they have produced since joining the competition in 2007. And no one epitomised that more than Manny Muscat at Westpac Stadium.
The Phoenix are a different side when the former Maltese international is tucked in just in front of the back four which is why they need him on the pitch and not cooling his heels in the stands through suspension. He harried and hassled the Jets all afternoon and chased down everything, which meant centre-backs Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund were rarely over-run as they have been during Muscat’s three-game ban.
That’s not to say there weren’t some hairy moments in defence, the worst being Durante’s back pass to Mark Paston, which was almost pounced on by Heskey
The other big difference for Wellington was Paul Ifill, who replaced Stein Huysegems for his first start since ankle surgery.
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News from Wellington Phoenix – January 25
The sun is promising to shine on the Phoenix’s 150th A-League match as they take on Emile Heskey and the Jets at Westpac Stadium on Sunday. Phoenix fans will be hoping the sun shines on their team in more ways than one when Newcastle Jets visit Westpac Stadium on Sunday. Home games have been dogged by inclement weather this season, but a sunny, calm day is on the cards this time and it is up to the team to light up the stadium further.
In seasons past the Phoenix have never been more dangerous than when their backs are to the wall and that is they are now, occupying bottom place after an encouraging start.
Such is the closeness of the Hyundai A-League however the Phoenix are only five points out of the playoff places and the climb towards that target has to start now. Their cause will be helped by having Paul Ifill and Manny Muscat back in the starting line-up.
The key to success for the Phoenix is scoring first. Last season the Phoenix scored first in 12 games and went on to win 11 of those with one drawn. This season they have won three and drawn one of the five games when they got their noses in front first, but have won only one of 12 after conceding the first goal.
Against Sydney FC last week the Phoenix had three good chances to take an early lead but didn’t take any of them and were on the back foot once Sydney opened the scoring.
They have a good record against Newcastle Jets having won their last five meetings and eight out of nine at home.
“We have been creating chances but not taking them,” coach Ricki Herbert said. “That is something we have to change.”
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