Contracted professionals and emerging young talent alike got a good workout when the Wellington Phoenix drew 3-3 with a Capital Football selection at Weka Park, Kapiti on Sunday.
With Glen Moss, Alex Rodriguez, Andrew Durante, Louis Fenton and Ben Sigmund unavailable through injury or illness, and new signing Jeffrey Sarpong not yet ready for match play, coach Ernie Merrick had to rely on Academy players to fill the gaps and not one of them let him down.
Merrick said the young talent on show was evidence of how much the club had progressed in the past couple of seasons.
“These youngsters are playing for contracts and I am impressed with the way they are developing,” Merrick said.
“We saw today that they can hold their own with older players and they are only going to get better.”
The Phoenix began brightly and it took only 10 minutes for former Sydney FC striker Blake Powell to open the scoring from close in.
Fifteen minutes later Kwabena Appiah made it 2-0 to the Hyundai A- League side and it appeared the Phoenix were on the way to a big win.
Defensive frailties however, with regular first team solid central defenders Durante and Sigmund absent, allowed Magno Viera to score twice from close range in two minutes to put his team level.
Appiah put the Phoenix back in front four minutes into the second spell but Louis Corrales equalised for the selection 15 minutes from time.