Wellington Phoenix move into top six with narrow win over Newcastle Jets
Dylan Macallister's 20th minute goal proved the difference as Ricki Herbert's men produced the result they required at home to replace Melbourne Heart in the top six with three matches remaining in their regular season.
The Jets slumped to their straight loss and are now in danger of missing the playoffs if they cannot turn around their current form which has them sitting four points behind the Phoenix but with one game in hand on today's opponents.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington Crowd: approx. 6,000 Referee: Chris Beath Yellow cards:WP - Andrew Durante 53', Troy Hearfield 56', Vince Lia 68', Ben Sigmund 80', Manny Muscat 82' NJ - Nikolai Topor-Stanley 26', Ben Sigmund 80' Red card:NJ - Ryan Griffiths 66'
The home side were making all the running in the early stages with Newcastle looking devoid of any attacking threat and it was to prove beneficial for the Phoenix when hit the lead in the 20th minute. GOAL Manny Muscat played a nice ball down the right flank into the path of exciting youngster Marco Rojas who put on the after burners and took Adam D'Apuzzo to school before slotting it into the path of Dylan Macallister who knocked it past Jets keeper Ben Kennedy with a first-time shot from the edge of the six-yard box for his sixth goal in his last eight outings.
The goal sparked both sides into action after a slow beginning but it was the Phoenix again looking more dangerous with two late chances in the first half coming from Nick Ward and Macallister who both should have done better to double the advantage.
Wellington's Troy Hearfield hit the side netting early in the second half before Newcastle's Marko Jesic struck the upright after his shot had Danny Vukovic stranded.
Vukovic produced a great diving save in the 59th minute from a Ryan Griffiths header and five minutes later, Phoenix midfielder Tim Brown scuffed a good opportunity before some drama ensued involving the Jets. Griffiths was shown a straight red by referee Chris Beath after a challenge but it must have been for backchat as the tackle did not seem to be too harsh.
The job for the visitors was now made extremely difficult but they made their intentions clear by pushing forward with regularity despite the fact they were a man down. However, it almost went against them when Wellington's Rojas sent a ball into the path of substitute Daniel who wasn't far off knocking it into the back of the net.
Wellington controlled the tempo of the match in the dying stages and despite a late scare as the Jets chased a leveler, managed to hold on to a narrow 1-0 win, enhancing their finals chances.
WP Danny Vukovic (gk), Manny Muscat, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Troy Hearfield, Nick Ward (Daniel 60'), Tim Brown, Vince Lia (Greenacre 71'), Marco Rojas, Dylan Macallister
Subs - Reece Crowther (gk), Daniel (60'), Chris Greenacre (72'), Oscar Roberto Cornejo
NJ Ben Kennedy (gk), Adam D'Apuzzo, Taylor Regan, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tarek Elrich (Virgili 74'), Marcello Fiorentini, Jeremy Brockie (Haliti 70'), Jobe Wheelhouse, Sam Gallaway, Marko Jesic, Ryan Griffiths
Subs - Matthew Nash (gk), Labinot Haliti (70'), James Virgili (74'), Jacob Pepper