Hyundai A-League - 2012/2013 - Season 8

No change to patient
despite change at helm
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 26 (brought forward)
7pm, Wednesday 27 February, 2013
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1
(Jeremy Brockie 60')
lost to
Newcastle Jets FC 2
(Adam Taggart 19, Michael Bridges 44')

Wellington Phoenix began life in the post-Ricki Herbert era in much the same manner as they had played out much of their former mentor’s final campaign on 27 February, slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium, in their brought forward R26 game, which leaves the home team battling to avoid the wooden spoon.

Herbert tendered his resignation less than thirty-six hours before this fixture, ending his 154-game tenure - the longest reign of any Hyundai A-League coach in the league‘s history - at a club he has bossed since its formation.

After making the play-offs in each of the past three seasons, this campaign ultimately proved to be one too far for the All Whites mentor at club level, although he will be retained by Wellington Phoenix in a technical advisory capacity.

The search for his successor is already under way, with Herbert’s assistant, Chris Greenacre, taking the reins for the last five games of the season, the visit of Newcastle the first of those.

Just 4,025 fans - a record low for the club, under-cutting the previous mark set just three days earlier - were on hand to witness the event, and what they saw throughout the bulk of it was a home team display largely bereft of imagination and ideas, of passion and penetration, of fight and flair, Corey Gameiro excepted.

The recent loan signing is the one player in Wellington’s ranks who isn’t mired by the way the season has come crashing down around his team-mates, and it shows - his energy and effervescence contrasts starkly with both his colleagues’ efforts and those of Wellington’s fickle fans, who were taunted throughout this match by a handful of visiting Novocastrian supporters gleefully chanting “You’re not singing anymore!”

And they weren’t. The near-silence from the once-vocal Yellow Fever area was nigh on deafening. Little wonder the players they purport to support were playing like a combination who can’t wait for this campaign to conclude.

Save for a seventh minute whipped angled cross from Paul Ifill which Jeremy Brockie was just two strides away from reaching, and a Brockie shot in the 36th minute which was blocked by the covering figure of Joshua Brilliante, Wellington offered next to nothing as an attacking unit in the first half.

That criticism can’t be levelled at Newcastle, who bossed the first half and deservedly went to the dressing rooms two goals to the good. Michael Bridges was the star turn throughout the opening forty-five minutes, as the visitors imposed their will upon proceedings in the face of scant resistance.

Their first clear-cut opening came on the quarter hour, when Taylor Regan played a ball forward out of defence which Bridge dummied, allowing it to run through to Emile Heskey, racing through beyond him. The former England striker surged forward before drawing Glen Moss out of goal, only to direct his shot past both the ‘keeper and, narrowly, the far post.

It was a glorious chance spurned by the ex-Liverpool marksman, but Newcastle didn’t have long to wait before they were celebrating. After Tony Lochhead headed a hooked effort from Bridges off the line, the visitors opened the scoring in the nineteenth minute with a wonderful pass-laden move.

Bridges dominated the move, the climax of which saw Heskey hold up play before steering the ball back to Brilliante. He linked with Bridges and Ruben Zadkovich before dashing down the right on the overlap to receive a pass from his captain, which the fullback crossed into the penalty area.

Timing his run to meet it to perfection was Adam Taggart, who, as Wellington defenders stood and watched, caught the ball perfectly on the volley to thrash the ball beyond Moss - 1-0 Newcastle, an ascendancy they wouldn’t surrender.

From here on, they dominated the half, and should have doubled their lead in the 32nd minute. Bridges, again, was the architect, weaving his way into the penalty area between two feeble challenges before whipping in a low cross which Craig Goodwin somehow contrived to make a meal of despite being six yards from goal.

Wellington scrambled the ball to safety on this occasion, while a timely tackle from Ben Sigmund prevented Heskey from doubling Newcastle’s lead three minutes later, after Brilliante, Zadkovich and Bridges combined with the powerful striker, who worked a one-two with the playmaker to engineer this opening.

Newcastle struck a killer blow a minute before half-time, in the form of their second goal. A wild challenge from Ifill earned the retreating flank player a yellow card, and the visitors a free-kick which Goodwin curled into the goalmouth.

Again, Wellington players stood watching, unlike Bridges, whose unchallenged diving header fair bulleted past Moss to leave Newcastle on easy street - 2-0, and a move up the table to fifth place imminent.

Zadkovich prevented the home team from starting the second spell in the desired manner in the 54th minute, his timely tackle thwarting Louis Fenton as he looked to capitalise on Gameiro’s piercing pass. Five minutes later, Zadkovich was in action at the other end of the park, testing Moss with a twenty-five yarder.

Wellington’s ‘keeper cleared the ball downfield, and for the first time in the match, Newcastle’s defence switched off. Regan’s under-powered header back to the hitherto untested Mark Birighitti was pounced on by the ever-eager figure of Fenton, who let fly from point-blank range.

The ‘keeper’s instinctive parry saw the ball bounce away, but only as far as the incoming figure of Brockie, who returned it with interest, burying an unerring half-volley into the back of an untended net from the edge of the area - 2-1.

With that, Wellington’s fans stirred from their slumbers, and started behaving in a manner far more befitting of supporters as they started urging their team on to restore parity on the scoreboard.

But it was Newcastle who twice went close to restoring their two-goal advantage in the next ten minutes, substitute Mitch Cooper not too far away from getting on the end of Taggart’s angled cross after Heskey had orchestrated a 66th minute raid.

Four minutes later, only a double-save by Moss kept the visitors at bay. Taggart caught Ifill in possession, then linked with Heskey before Goodwin worked an opening with Taggart which left the former with just Moss to beat. The ‘keeper did extremely well to save at close quarters, and recovered quickly to keep out Zadkovich’s attempt to drive home the rebound.

After Brockie’s deflected eighteen-yarder had been grabbed by Birighitti, Newcastle continued to press for a third goal, Goodwin dragging a shot across the face of goal ten minutes from time, before Regan’s angled header, from a Zadkovich corner, crept inches past the far post two minutes later.

A late flurry from Wellington almost produced an equaliser they wouldn’t have deserved. Substitute Andrew Hoole almost sliced an attempted clearance into his own net to keep out Tyler Boyd’s cross, while in stoppage time, Brockie went desperately close with a volley after pouncing on a Regan error.

It wasn’t to be for Wellington, however, Newcastle prevailing 2-1 to head west with a rare three-point haul, their first at the venue since 2007. It’s a result which, will doing great things for the visitors’ prospects, all but ends the play-off hopes of the home team in a campaign which will be remembered for Ricki Herbert’s resignation above all else.

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 26 (brought forward)
7pm, Wednesday 27 February, 2013
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1
(Jeremy Brockie 60')
lost to
Newcastle Jets FC 2
(Adam Taggart 19, Michael Bridges 44')

    Crowd: 4,025


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    Moss (gk); Bertos, Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead; Fenton (Boyd +64'), Muscat, Lia (Sanchez +72'), Ifill (Huysegems +80'); Brockie, Gameiro

    Substitutes not used: Paston (rgk)

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Manny Muscat 90', Paul Ifill 43', Jeremy Brockie 23', Corey Gamiero 81'
    Red Cards: Lochhead 72'

    Newcastle Jets FC :
    Player listing:
    Birighitti (gk); Brilliante, Regan, Ritter, Gallaway (Jesic +83'); Zadkovich, Bridges (Cooper +65'), Caravella (Hoole +39'); Taggart, Heskey, Goodwin

    Substitutes not used: tba (rgk)

    Coach: Gary van Egmond

    Yellow Cards: Mark Birrigitti 90', Zenon Caravella '9, Emile Heskey 53'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Kris Griffiths Jones 2/10

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Adam Taggart (NJ)
    2. Corey Gamiero (WP)
    1. Michael Bridges (NJ) - would have got 3 had he played the full 90'

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 4/10

    Match report and ratings: By Jeremy Ruane

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here, are as attributed.

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