It was far from pretty and not the way coach Ernie Merrick wants his team to play, but the Wellington Phoenix ground out a 1-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners in an FFA Cup tie at Gosford on Tuesday night.
The win came courtesy of an 18th minute goal from Kwabena Appiah who pressured Mariners goalkeeper Paul Izzo into an error before forcing the ball over the line.
The Phoenix had other chances to increase their lead in the first spell but failed to take them and that made for a tense finish as the home side finished strongly.
Extra time looked certain when referee Steve Lucas, who handed out eight yellow cards, gave the home side an 82nd minute penalty but Roy O’Donovan blasted his spot kick against the crossbar.
Merrick was far from pleased with his team’s performance and will be looking for a big improvement in the next round.
“That was our first competitive hit out and it showed,” Merrick said.
“Our defence of Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Manny Muscat and Louis Fenton, along with goalkeeper Glen Moss, saved the day and they were the only ones who could say they had a decent game.
“It was disappointing that our midfield couldn’t retain possession, and the strikers had chances in the first half but there were too many flicks and tricks rather than firm shots.
“Overall it was pretty ugly but to come away with the win gives us another competitive opportunity in the next round where we will need to improve markedly.”