The Wellington Phoenix have kept alive their hopes of avoiding the Liberty A-League’s wooden spoon.
The Phoenix have beaten Adelaide United 3-1 in their rescheduled seventh round match in Adelaide to close back to within two points of the Newcastle Jets with one round to play.
Young forward Milly Clegg celebrated her maiden call-up to the Football Ferns by scoring two second-half goals after the sides were level at 1-1 at halftime.
“She’s riding a bit of a high,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said post-game. “It’s been a really good season for her. She’s kept herself grounded…and today she showed what she can offer.
“While she’s young and the Ferns will be a big step up for her, she’s got something that’s different. I’m really excited to see how she gets on.”
If the Nix beat reigning champions Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon and Newcastle fail to upset high-flying Sydney FC, Wellington will move off the bottom of the ladder.
“I was hoping that it wouldn’t come down to this, but we didn’t do what we needed to do against Newcastle.
“We spoke a lot about bringing it back to our basics, back to our principles, the football we want to be known for and the result will take care of itself, and it did today.
“Really, really pleased with the whole squad and how everyone has reacted since the Newcastle game.
“Victory have won the last two seasons and they’re fighting for their spot in the top four so it’s going to be a pretty big game for both teams.”
Natalie Lawrence made five changes to the XI which started Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Newcastle, with scholarship players Georgia Candy and Charlotte Lancaster handed their first starts. Candy replaced Brianna Edwards in goal, while Lancaster was selected in a new front three alongside Ava Pritchard and Clegg. Claudia Cicco also came into the side at right back.
Injury replacement Emma Main, fullbacks Zoe McMeeken and Saskia Vosper and midfielder Te Reremoana Walker were brought on to the bench with Marisa van der Meer, Paige Satchell, Michaela Robertson and Emma Rolston rested with an eye to the Victory on Saturday.
“To be able to rotate the squad and show the depth of the squad…is also a real highlight.
“It showed the principles of the team, the character of the team and the power of the squad that we could make as many changes as we did and everyone knows their role and everyone is on the same page.
“Now we’ve got a big decision on our hands for the starting XI and 16 to face Melbourne Victory.”
It was an uneventful opening quarter of an hour, with an off target shot from Clegg in the second minute the only goal scoring opportunity for either side.
The match came alive in the 19th minute. Betsy Hassett had a powerful shot blocked on the edge of the Adelaide box before Clegg earned the Phoenix a corner when her shot was deflected over the byline. Lancaster then delivered a pinpoint right-wing corner to the near post that Chloe Knott headed home for her first goal of the season.
The Reds equalised just 75 seconds later, with Fiona Worts nodding in a right-wing cross from Emilia Murray at the back post. It was Adelaide’s first shot of the match.
Michaela Foster was able to push further forward as the half progressed and she produced a great piercing through ball in the 37th minute. Unfortunately for Pritchard and the Nix she wasn’t able to get on the end of Foster’s pass and force a save from Annalee Grove in Adelaide’s goal.
Moments later Grove quickly came off her line for a 50-50 challenge with Clegg which came off the young Phoenix forward and out for a goal-kick.
The Reds finished the half the stronger of the two sides and registered a further three shots on target in the final five minutes, but all were comfortably held by Candy in Wellington’s goal.
Lancaster had a busy start to the second-half, shooting narrowly wide of Grove’s right-hand post from distance before finding the roof of the Adelaide ‘keeper’s net with a cross-come-shot.
She then made way for Main in the 56th minute, allowing the injury replacement to make her A-League debut.
Both sides came close to breaking the deadlock midway through the second half. Candy did well to deal with a dangerous Adelaide corner, before a powerful first-time shot from Foster missed Grove’s right-hand post by mere centimetres.
Clegg put the Phoenix back in front in the 75th minute, when she rounded the Reds’ ‘keeper and shot into an empty net after getting on the end of a defence-splitting pass from Main.
Adelaide came close to a near instant equaliser with centre back Maruschka Waldus rattling Candy’s right-hand post from a free-kick.
Georgia Candy then produced a top-drawer save in the 83rd minute to parry away a thumping shot from Dylan Holmes.
Annalee Grove too produced a sharp save to keep out a Main header from close-range moments later.
The Reds pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages, but were unable to test Candy and the Nix hit them on the counter in the sixth minute of time added on. A shot from Clegg at the top of the box took a big deflection off Waldus and it looped over Grove who was unable to keep it out of the back of the net.
The Wellington Phoenix will have just a couple of days to prepare to host the Victory at Sky Stadium, but now have the added incentive of potentially avoiding the wooden spoon.
Wellington Phoenix: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk). 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c) (18. Te Reremoana WALKER 67th), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (15. Zoe MCMEEKEN 84th), 11. Betsy HASSETT, 17. Claudia CICCO (2. Saskia VOSPER 84th), 19. Charlotte LANCASTER (25. Emma MAIN 56th), 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).
Adelaide United: 1. Annalee GROVE (gk), 2. Emily HODGSON, 7. Melindaj BARBIERI (17. Zoe TOLLAND 74th), 11. Isabel HODGSON (c), 12. Nanako SASAKI (15. Katie BOWLER 46th), 13. Ella TONKIN (6. Jenna MCCORMICK 75th), 14. Meisha WESTLAND, 16. Dylan HOLMES, 19. Maruschka WALDUS, 22. Emilia MURRAY (18. Sasha COOREY 60th), 23. Fiona WORTS.
Unused substitutes: 26. Grace WILSON (gk).
7. Chloe KNOTT (Wellington Phoenix) – 19th
23. Fiona WORTS (Adelaide United) – 21st
20. Milly CLEGG (Wellington Phoenix) – 75th
20. Milly CLEGG (Wellington Phoenix) – 90+6
8. Grace Wisnewski (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 78th
9. Ava Pritchard (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 83rd
2. Saskia VOSPER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+4