The Wellington Phoenix reserves have had to settle for eighth place in the men’s National League Championship.
The Phoenix reserves have been beaten 4-2 by top of the table Wellington Olympic in their final round match at Martin Luckie Park in Wellington, missing out on a chance to leapfrog seventh-placed Auckland United.
A new-look reserves side held a surprise 2-0 lead at halftime but Olympic dominated the second half to run away with the three points.
The Central League winners will face reigning champions Auckland City in next Sunday’s final at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart.
Head coach Chris Greenacre was forced to make seven changes to the XI which started last week’s 3-2 win over Petone FC, with the Phoenix first team playing an internal game on Saturday.
Fullbacks Xuan Loke and Lewis Partridge, centre back Jayden Smith and Joseph Cornille, and midfielders Hayden Thomas, Noah Karunaratne and Ryan Watson came into the side in place of Jackson Manuel, Matthew Sheridan, Isaac Hughes, Fergus Gillion, Fin Conchie, Josh Rudland and Oskar van Hattum.
Partridge put the Phoenix reserves in front in the 15th minute when his long-range rocket picked out the left corner of Olympic’s goal.
Josh Tollervey doubled their lead half an hour into the match when he slipped in behind the hosts’ defence and beat Brooklyn Browne in Olympic’s goal.
Former Phoenix striker Hamish Watson pulled a goal back mere seconds after halftime after the young Nix were unable to deal with a long throw.
Olympic had to wait a further 24 minutes before they found an equaliser, with Joseph Hopper levelling the scores with a thumping back post header.
Prolific striker Gianni Bouzoukis gave the hosts the lead in the 86th minute with a back post header of his own and then converted a penalty shortly after to wrap up the points.
Wellington Phoenix reserves: 1.Alby KELLY-HEALD (gk), 2. Xuan LOKE, 3. Lewis PARTRIDGE (24. Kyle KOCH 78th), 7. Noah KARUNARATNE, 8. Dan MCKAY (c), 9. Josh TOLLERVEY (15. Daniel MAKOWEM 66th), 10. Ryan WATSON (18. Jack PERNISKIE 78th), 12. Kaelin NGUYEN (19. Sam PROCTOR 78th), 14. Hayden THOMAS (6. Alex BRAAKHUIS 78th), 22. Jayden SMITH, 25. Joseph CORNILLE.
Wellington Olympic: 41. Brooklyn BROWNE (gk), 2. Jack CAWLEY, 3. Joseph HOPPER, 7. Kailan GOULD, 8. Joel STEVENS, 9. Hamish WATSON (23. Gavin HOY 71st), 10. Gianni BOUZOUKIS, 15. Ben MATA (c) (18. Theo ETTEMA 56th), 19. Samuel MITRAKAS (6. Tor DAVENPORT-PETERSEN 56th), 20. Tamupiwa DIMAIRO, 26. William VINCENT (25. Isa PRINS 84th).
Unused substitutes: 1. Scott BASALAJ (gk).
3. Lewis PARTRIDGE (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – 15th
9. Josh TOLLERVEY (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – 31st
9. Hamish WATSON (Wellington Olympic) – 46th
3. Joseph HOPPER (Wellington Olympic) – 70th
10. Gianni BOUZOUKIS (Wellington Olympic) – 86th & 89th pen
12. Kaelin NGUYEN (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – yellow – 41st
2. Xuan LOKE (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – yellow – 48th
19. Samuel MITRAKAS (Wellington Olympic) – yellow – 51st
6. Tor DAVENPORT-PETERSEN (Wellington Olympic) – yellow – 68th
15. Daniel MAKOWEM (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – yellow – 85th
Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.