Jeremy Brockie netted the winner and a club record as the Wellington Phoenix beat Melbourne Heart 1-0 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Sunday.
Brockie-s 19th-minute winner, with a lovely volley from a perfect Paul Ifill cross, was his 14th of the season, a tally one more than Ifill-s record for a season at the club.
The striker could easily have had a hat-trick, hitting the crossbar and heading wide from close range when caught in two minds.
The scoreline didn-t do the Phoenix, who had only won five games previously this season, justice and caretaker coach Chris Greenacre should take the credit for his pre-game planning.
Greenacre switched midfielder Manny Muscat to fullback and pushed Leo Bertos forward out wide with Stein Huysegems and Brockie up front.
Huysegems had his best game of the season, twice hitting the woodwork before being unluckily sent off for two yellow cards late in the game.
Heart coach John Aloisi said Greenacre-s tactics had taken him by surprise.
“We weren-t expecting so many forward players and they pushed us from the start,” Aloisi said.
“Huysegems was very good today and the front four all caused us problems.
“We like to control the tempo but today Wellington didn-t allow us to do that.”
Greenacre said he was delighted for his players who “have put up with a lot of stuff this year”.
Playing what was almost a 4-1-5 formation Greenacre said he had changed things around as he felt Brockie needed help with the work-rate up front and there was no-one with a better work ethic than Huysegems.
“Since Stein came to the club he has been in and out of the starting team but has been a true professional,” Greenacre said.
“When he isn-t in the team you can see he isn-t happy but he doesn-t make a fuss and his work ethic is amazing. He is a great model for young boys.
“I knew the changes might make us a bit vulnerable but we defended well and everyone put in a great shift.”
Greenacre said he told his players to release the shackles and to go out and enjoy their football again. They certainly did.
The coach also singled out two players, Ifill and Tony Lochhead, for special mention.
“Paul was the Iffie of old today and his cross for the goal was magnificent,” he said.
“When he runs at people in this mood you don-t want to be a defender.
“Locky was great today and it was good to see. I think he has just been lacking in confidence but it came flooding back today.”
It was a top-class all-round performance from a team that collectively had been struggling through a lack of confidence, and they will be looking to finish the season on a good note even though their final three games are tough with Western Sydney and Perth away and Melbourne Victory at home.