Herbert demands more after forcing stalemate

MOST sides would be happy to leave Melbourne with a Hyundai A-League 2009/10 point in the bank but Wellington Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert was far from satisfied after his side’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory.

MOST sides would be happy to leave Melbourne with a Hyundai A-League 2009/10 point in the bank but Wellington Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert was far from satisfied after his side-s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory.

Stung early by a Carlos Hernandez free kick after just four minutes, the Phoenix dominated the remainder of the match at Etihad Stadium and were unlucky not to leave the Victorian capital with all three competition points.

As it is, the Phoenix return home to the New Zealand capital having forced the stalemate from the defending champions courtesy of Tim Brown-s delightful strike in the 30th minute.

Herbert was impressed by his side-s application but admitted disappointment at its inability to finish off a Victory side which was often at sixes and sevens.

“Really it was a continuation of what we showed against Adelaide the previous week (a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium). We had Melbourne under pressure but we lacked the clinical finish at critical times.

“Getting a point isn-t a bad result for us by any means, but we came here with the intent of getting the win and that-s what we worked toward. In our past two seasons we probably might have come here with the mindset of getting a point, to locks things down and minimise the risk, but I thought we were very good value for the win this time.”

The Phoenix dominated the majority of the match, forcing former Phoenix stopper Glen Moss to make several good saves to keep the hosts in it.

However, the match had swung the Victory-s way early when Costa Rican international Hernandez swung a free kick over the wall and past Phoenix keeper Mark Paston.

“All dues to the lad, it was a quality free kick,” said Herbert.

It was resurgent Brazilian playmaker Daniel who set up the Phoenix-s equaliser in the 30th minute, the midfield maestro chasing a ball to the byline and sending a lovely cross to a trio of Phoenix players in the six-yard box. The ball fell to Brown, who skillfully trapped it and struck it past Moss from close range in one silky movement.

It was a sublime strike and a superb 90 minutes from the All Whites vice-captain who, like four of his fellow internationals in the Phoenix starting XI, was backing up from tough midweek international fixtures in the Middle East and Europe.

Herbert, in charge of the All Whites for their 3-1 win against Jordan in Amman on Thursday morning, said the Phoenix-s preparation for the match at Etihad had been difficult but that the international contingent and the remainder of the squad the remained in Wellington had pulled together superbly.

“There were a few tired players put there but they all contributed extremely well. (Assistant coaches) Luciano Trani and Jonathan Gould had balance of the squad in top-notch shape for the match and, although it-s never easy in those sorts of circumstances, I was impressed by how things came together, as per our gameplan.

“Tim Brown and Vince Lia are forming an excellent combination in midfield, Daniel-s back to top form and fitness and Paul Ifill continues to show he-s going to torment defenders in this competition. We-re tracking very well but we do need to work on being more clinical with the chances we-re creating.”

The Phoenix-s next match is against Robbie Fowler-s North Queensland Fury at Westpac Stadium on Sunday. The Fury scored their first win of the season at the weekend with a 1-0 victory against Sydney FC and Herbert is certainly not underestimating the threat posed by the North Queenslanders and their captain Fowler, the former Liverpool and England legend dubbed “God” for his goalscoring talents.

“What a game it-s going to be,” Herbert said. “The Fury turned in a great performance against Sydney and we-ll need to be at our best at Westpac on Sunday. It goes to show the closeness of competitiveness of this league - it-s close from top to bottom and already things are tight.

“I said it before the season kicked off, the leading group won-t be sorted till well past half way and I-m confident we-ll be in that leading group.”