THE injection of replacement striker Adam Kwasnik proved a masterstroke for the Wellington Phoenix tonight, the former Central Coast Mariners marksman scoring on debut for his new club to earn the Phoenix a 1-1 draw with the Queensland Roar in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup match.
Kwasnik scored in the 74th minute at Stockland Park on the Sunshine Coast to cancel out Sergio van Dijk-s 18th minute goal for the home side and earn the Phoenix the draw, the result putting the Wellington club on top of Group B in the warm-up competition ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was pleased with his side-s continuing development, though he admitted to some concerns about the Phoenix-s slow start to the match.
“Overall it was good, but the first half was average. But we got things going in the second half and were dominant. It was true of the cliché of ‘a game of two halves- – it was all them in the first and all us in the second.
“I think we were a little lethargic early and slow to get going. They didn-t have a tonne of chances but we just couldn-t get the ball.”
Several canny substitutions by Herbert swung the momentum for the visitors and the introduction of Kwasnik in the 65th minute made the crucial difference. Kwasnik latched on to a cross from fellow replacement Shane Smeltz, the Aussie striker making no mistake to notch his first goal for the Phoenix.
“Good on him,” said Herbert. “I wanted to use Adam for 20-25 minutes and we weren-t too far wrong. He was blowing a wee bit at the end but he looked very comfortable and used his pace to get into good positions.”
The match also provided valuable playing time for several others in Herbert-s squad, with midfielder Richard Johnson, striker Vaughan Coveny, right back Ben Sigmund and goalkeeper Mark Paston all getting valuable minutes under their belts.
“That-s what this competition is all about, providing players with time on the pitch and testing combinations,” Herbert said. “The best thing to come out of this match was to see how we could come out in the second half, get control and show what we-re capable of.
“There are now only a few players in the squad who haven-t had time on the park and next weekend [against Sydney FC] will offer us another opportunity to give them a run.”
The Phoenix-s revamped defence was again tidy and midfield showed plenty of creative potential.
Coming into Herbert-s thinking for Saturday-s match against Sydney FC in Wollongong will be new defensive signing David Mulligan and midfielders Tim Brown, Jeremy Christie and Leilei Gao.
“We-ve got some good options, so it-ll be a case of assessing everything a little closer to the time.”
The Phoenix now head Group B on four points, one point ahead of the Mariners and Sydney FC after the big city boys were thumped 3-0 in Gosford.
2008 Pre-Season Cup – Round two
Queensland Roar v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday 27 July 2008
Stockland Park, Sunshine Coast
Queensland Roar 1 (Sergio van Dijk 18-)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Adam Kwasnik 74-)