Match Review: Reserves’ second-half comeback falls short

The Wellington Phoenix reserves have fallen to their second defeat of the 2022 National League Championship.

The Phoenix reserves have been beaten 3-2 by Central League rivals Miramar Rangers at a wet and windy Fraser Park in Lower Hutt.

Miramar took control of the match in the first-half, leading 3-0 at the break courtesy of a brace from Sam Mason-Smith and an early Jorge Akers goal direct from a corner.

The reserves dominated the second-half and Riley Bidois pulled a goal back in just the 51st minute, but the young Nix were unable to find a second until substitute Ben Wallace bundled the ball home from a couple of yards with virtually the last kick of the ball.

The result leaves the Phoenix reserves in the middle of the 10-team table, while Rangers move off the bottom of the table and into eighth place.

Head coach Chris Greenacre watched the game from Wellington airport, after being called into the first-team staff for their fourth round A-League match against Melbourne City on Sunday, with his assistant Steve Coleman taking charge of the reserves.

Coleman made four changes to the XI that started last week’s 3-1 win over Christchurch United. Noah Karunaratne and Riley Bidois returned from first-team duty, while Finn Surman was released by Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay to get some game time, along with Lucas Mauragis, who made his second straight start for the reserves.

The young Nix found themselves a goal down just six minutes into the match when Akers’ in-swinging corner beat reserves goalkeeper Lukas Kelly-Heald at his near post.

Mason-Smith made it 2-0 to Miramar before 20 minutes were up on the clock, stroking home a pinpoint cross from six yards out.

The experienced English forward added his second and Rangers’ third shortly before the interval, expertly chipping Kelly-Heald from the right touchline.Three-nil down the Phoenix reserves showed more intent after halftime and pinned Miramar in their half for long periods.

Five minutes into the second-half the young Nix had a reward with Bidois producing a tidy finish after being picked out by Matthew Sheridan, who moved into right back for the second 45.

Despite their dominance the reserves struggled to really test Joseph Knowles in the Rangers’ goal.

Substitute Josh Rudland came close in the 88th minute, rattling the post before being ruled offside.

Bidois and Miramar midfielder Andy Bevin were both shown straight red cards in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time for an incident that wasn’t caught on camera.

The young Nix weren’t able to capitalise from the resulting free-kick, but shortly after from a corner Wallace converted to make it 3-2.

Unfortunately for the Phoenix reserves it came too late, with the fulltime whistle blown moments later.

The reserves head to Auckland next weekend to play quadruple-chasing Auckland City at Kiwitea Street.

Wellington Phoenix reserves
: 1. Alby KELLY-HEALD (gk), 2. Joseph CHIARI (16. Fin CONCHIE 46th), 3. Finn SURMAN, 5. Isaac HUGHES (c) (15. Adam SUPYK 74th), 6. Dan MCKAY (18. Ben WALLACE 74th), 7. Noah KARUNARATNE (14. Josh RUDLAND 81st), 9. Riley BIDOIS, 10. Charlie BEALE, 11. Kaelin NGUYEN, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Matthew SHERIDAN.
Unused substitutes: 20. Callum KENNETT (gk).

Miramar Rangers: 1. Joseph KNOWLES (gk), 2. Wilson SOUPHANTHAVONG, 3. Tiahn MANUEL, 4. Liam WOOD (c), 5. Josh ROGERSON, 7. Max FALCONER, 9. Hamish WATSON, 10. Jorge AKERS, 12. Andrew BEVIN, 14. Samuel MASON-SMITH, 16. Patrick TOBIN (13. Scott MIDGLEY 64th (27. Harry CHOTE 87th)).
Unused substitutes: 25. Jack DE GROOT (gk), 11. Spencer CAMERON, 15. James MURDOCH-GIBBS.

10. Jorge AKERS (Miramar Rangers) – 7th
14. Samuel MASON-SMITH (Miramar Rangers) – 19th
14. Samuel MASON-SMITH (Miramar Rangers) – 44th
9. Riley BIDOIS (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – 51st
18. Ben WALLACE (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – 90+6

3. Tiahn MANUEL (Miramar Rangers) – yellow – 69th
12. Andrew BEVIN (Miramar Rangers) – red – 90+4
9. Riley BIDOIS (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – red – 90+4