Phoenix Premiers fall to Canterbury United

Canterbury United moved into the top four of the ASB Premiership on Saturday, jumping over the Wellington Phoenix in the process, with a 2-0 win at ASB Football Park in Christchurch.

First half goals to captain Tom Schwarz – this third of the year – and midfielder Aaron Clapham set the home side on their way and the Phoenix could find no way back in the second period, dropping their second straight match.

After a stuttering start to their 2014-15 season, Sean Devine’s Canterbury side have put together back-to-back wins and Devine said maintaining their level of performance from last week’s win over Waitakere was something the side focussed on.

“We spoke about it all week; keep momentum and keep positive and can we back up and we did today,” Devine said.

“We started a bit shaky but once we got the grip of it and the pace of the game they got their rewards.”

“I’m stoked for them, the hard work and effort these boys are putting in they are getting their rewards from it now and they’ve got to keep positive and keep believing and we’ll kick on.”

Schwarz’s third headed goal of the season – giving the centre back the lead in the team golden boot race – was important and Devine says it’s just reward for their skipper who is having a strong season.

“Credit to him, he’s stepped up this year. He has taken a lot of responsibility and it shows he’s leading. He’s not only doing it verbally, he’s doing it with his application on the pitch as well.”

Devine and his team can now look forward to the holiday period with a spring in their step with Hawke’s Bay, WaiBOP and Southern in their sights when the action kicks off again in January.

“It’s important the players look after themselves over the Christmas break and we’re ready to go here against Hawke’s Bay at home,” Devine said.

“If the players manage themselves right, which they will do, [we’ll have] three games which we’ll look to get points off, who knows?”

After a cagey opening period Miles John had a 10th minute shot easily saved by Oliver Sail in the Phoenix goal before Jason Hicks headed over the Canterbury bar on the end of a cross from All Whites and New Zealand U-20 striker Joel Stevens.

The next chance fell to Canterbury just before the half hour mark with Thomas Boss and Mario Hofmann through into the Phoenix area but with a 2-on-1 advantage the pair failed to capitalise.

Eight minutes before halftime the home side took the lead with Clapham influential in the lead up as his driving run earned a corner for Shawn O’Brien which was powered home by Schwarz.

Two minutes before the halftime whistle, Clapham underlined his quality once again, making space in the area for his own shot and slotting home beyond Sail for a 2-0 advantage.

Having built their 2-0 buffer, Canterbury were in no mood to give it back in the second half and, despite Adam Highfield making a couple of saves, the Phoenix were unable to peg back the deficit.

Canterbury’s next outing is a January 10 meeting with Hawke’s Bay United in Christchurch while the Wellington Phoenix meet Auckland City on January 11 at Kiwitea Street.

ASB Premiership 2014-15 – Round 8
Saturday 20 December

Canterbury United 2-0 Wellington Phoenix (half: 2-0)
CU: Tom Schwarz 37’ , Aaron Clapham 43’