The Newcastle Jets have all but ended the Wellington Phoenix’s hopes of moving off the bottom of the Liberty A-League ladder.
The Jets have twice come from a goal down to beat the Phoenix 3-2 at No. 2 Sportsground in their penultimate round match in Newcastle.
The result means the Nix are now five points adrift of the Jets at the bottom of the table, with two matches to play.
Wellington head coach Natalie Lawrence is disappointed they missed the opportunity to move out of the wooden spoon position.
“This one hurts for everyone,” Lawrence said post-game. “We came up short. Again, we created a lot, the goalkeeper made some great saves, we gave away from scrappy goals and we couldn’t handle the momentum shifts in the game.
“I think that’s one of the biggest reflections today, controlling and managing the game. We struggled when they changed momentum to deal with their level of intensity.
“When you go 2-1 up, you’re hoping this is your game. The girls are gutted.”
Lawrence still believes the Phoenix can avoid a second straight wooden spoon.
“We always knew this game was the one that was in our hands to get off the bottom of the league. That was and still is a massive goal for us.
“We still have six points that we can get. We know that this one would have helped to achieve those goals and going ahead twice it’s one that hurts for sure.
“We’ve got to move on. We haven’t got time to dwell. Often the players say to me I wish I was playing tomorrow, and we very nearly are.
“We’ll feel sorry for ourselves today and then…move on to the next game against Adelaide.”
Natalie Lawrence named an unchanged XI for the second week running. There was one enforced change on the bench with Charlotte Lancaster replacing the injured Alyssa Whinham.
It was an end-to-end opening to the match, but the Phoenix looked the more dangerous of the two sides going forward.
Michaela Robertson forced Jets ‘keeper Georgina Worth to make the first save just five minutes into the match, when she cut in off the left wing and shot to the near post.
Worth made a much tougher stop 10 minutes later to deny Grace Wisnewski after the midfielder got on the end of a pinpoint long ball from Kate Taylor and shot from the edge of the area.
Newcastle’s goalkeeper made another save midway through the half, coming off her line quickly to smoother a shot from the ever busy Paige Satchell.
The Nix took the lead from the resulting corner. Marisa van der Meer powerfully headed home a Michaela Foster corner across goal and into the back of the net for her third goal of the season.
The Jets registered their first shot on target half an hour into the game when Murphy Agnew shot straight at Wellington ‘keeper Brianna Edwards from a free-kick.
Newcastle captain Lauren Allan equalised seven minutes from halftime, thumping home a shot-come-cross from Cassidy Davis at the back post.
Allan had the only other chance of note before the break but she sliced her shot wide of the near post.
Emma Rolston called Worth back into action three minutes into the second-half and Rolston found the back of the net moments later when she directed a Robertson shot past the Jets ‘keeper. Unfortunately for the forward and the Phoenix the goal was ruled out for offside.
The Nix did reclaim the lead in the 53rd minute when Satchell scored her first goal for the club, smashing home from six yards out after being teed up by fellow Football Fern Betsy Hassett.
Newcastle had a period of sustained pressure after going behind and levelled the scores 11 minutes later when Wellington centre back Kate Taylor unfortunately steered a goal-bound shot from Jets substitute Ashlee Brodigan past Edwards.
Milly Clegg was brought on before the Jets equalised and she had a couple of goalscoring opportunities in the 70th and 72nd minutes, but both of her shots were comfortably held by Worth.
Another Phoenix substitute, Claudio Cicco, came close to restoring their lead 12 minutes from fulltime when the fullback got into the Newcastle box in open play and had a couple of shots. Her first was blocked and the second was well saved by Worth, who got down to her left to deny Cicco.
Instead it was the Jets who broke the deadlock, with the match winner coming from the unlikeliest of sources. Newcastle midfielder Cassidy Davis blasted a shot into the top corner of Wellington’s goal to score her maiden A-League goal in her 114th appearance.
The Nix pressed for an equaliser in the final 10 minutes but were unable to unlock the Jets’ defence, with Newcastle scrambling well.
Lancaster came closest to scoring Wellington’s third in the 88th minute when she curled a left-footed shot narrowly wide of the far post after a corner.
The Wellington Phoenix have little time to dwell on the disappointment. They are back in action on Tuesday night against eighth-placed Adelaide United in South Australia.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 13. Paige SATCHELL (19. Charlotte LANCASTER 83rd), 14. Michaela ROBERTSON (20. Milly CLEGG 54th), 16. Emma ROLSTON (9. Ava PRITCHARD 65th), 21. Michaela FOSTER (17. Claudia CICCO 65th).
Unused substitutes: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Newcastle Jets: 1. Georgina WORTH (gk), 2. Emily ROACH (9. Tara ANDREWS 90th), 3. Emily GARNIER, 6. Cassidy DAVIS, 10. Sophie STAPLEFORD (19. Ashlee BRODIGAN 59th), 11. Tessa TAMPLIN (7. Chloe WALANDOUW 75th), 12. Murphy AGNEW, 13. Lauren ALLAN (c), 14. Lucy JOHNSON, 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Teigen ALLEN.
Unused substitutes: 20. Claire COELHO (gk), 4. Josie ALLAN.
5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (Wellington Phoenix) – 26th
13. Lauren ALLAN (Newcastle Jets) – 38th
13. Paige SATCHELL (Wellington Phoenix) – 53rd
19. Ashlee BRODIGAN (Newcastle Jets) – 64th
6. Cassidy DAVIS (Newcastle Jets) – 82nd
2. Emily ROACH (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 36th
Callum Holmes (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 37th
21. Michaela FOSTER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 51st