The Wellington Phoenix broke a seven-year drought on Friday night when they beat Melbourne Heart 1-0 at AAMI Park to record the club’s first ever win in Melbourne.
The Wellington Phoenix broke a seven-year drought on Friday night when they beat Melbourne Heart 1-0 at AAMI Park to record the club-s first ever win in Melbourne.
It was a milestone not lost on Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante who returned to the dressing room letting everyone in earshot know that the Melbourne hoodoo had been buried.
Perhaps it wasn-t one of the Phoenix- best performances of the season, but importantly it was a winning one.
Coach Ernie Merrick was honest in his assessment of the game, but delighted that his team had shown the character needed to succeed in the face of adversity.
“I don-t think we played our best tonight; in fact we-ve played much better and lost, but we are starting to learn what it takes to win games and it isn-t always pretty football.”
In fact, compared to some recent games this could have been described as winning ugly, but that would take something away from what the Phoenix were trying to do.
They still attempted to play the Merrick way, but too often they lost their focus, especially in a first half that could have proved costly.
“I thought we gave the ball away cheaply in the midfield in the first half and the strikers were playing one-touch football,” Merrick said.
“We turned things around in the second half and began to play more the way we have been in recent games.”
The winning of the game came courtesy of what could be described as an inspired substitution by Merrick who replaced Jeremy Brockie with teenager Tyler Boyd in the 72nd minute.
Just three minutes later Boyd sped down the right flank and squared a superb ball for Stein Huysegems to turn into the net for the winning goal.
While the playoffs are still a distant target Merrick is confident of making them because of the players in his charge.
“We have a great bunch of boys with great character, and while we might not have the classiest players in the competition we have played some really good football against quality teams such as the Roar and West Sydney Wanderers.
“There is still a lot more to give even though we didn-t do it tonight, though in fairness to the players we have had a tough run on the road.
“There are still 40-odd points to play for and this set of players has the character to reach their target.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Louis Fenton, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Manny Muscat, Vince Lia, Albert Riera, Kenny Cunningham (Leo Bertos 59m), Carlos Hernandez (Jason Hicks 78m), Stein Huysegems, Jeremy Brockie (Tyler Boyd 72m).