It was mission accomplished on three fronts for goalkeeper Mark Paston when the Wellington Phoenix beat Gold Coast United 1-0 at Skilled Park on Sunday.
Making his first appearance for three months, Paston helped the Phoenix win on Australian soil for the first time this season, kept a clean sheet, and came through uninjured.
On both his previous visits to Skilled Park Paston sustained injuries that cost him his place between the posts for lengthy periods.
“Yes, it was nice to walk off under my own steam,” Paston said with a wry smile.
“The memories about this place have been a bit painful but that is now in the past.”
While he admitted to, not surprisingly, feeling “a little rusty”, Paston played an important part in getting his team over the line.
Making a number of quality saves, and commanding his six-yard box, Paston was soon into the swing of things with one save in particular being vital.
As the ball dropped at the feet of a Gold Coast player seven metres out Paston feared the worst but kept his team level with a superb save with his left foot.
“The ball popped up nicely for him but I thought he would go low so spread myself as best I could and managed to get it away,” he said.
That save came during a period of Gold Coast pressure in a pulsating game that swung from end to end.
The only blemish for Paston in his comeback game came in the second spell when a shot skidded off the greasy turf, hit him on the hip and spun underneath his body and towards an empty net.
“I was about to put my head in my hands when Manny (Muscat) appeared out of nowhere to clear it off the line,” Paston said.
With 90 minutes under his belt, and a couple of training sessions to come in Sydney this week, Paston is looking forward to Friday-s clash with Newcastle Jets.
Coach Ricki Herbert said he was pleased for his players who had played well on Australian soil several times this season without reward.
“Our away form hasn-t been bad, and there have been games where we have created a lot of opportunities and not taken them,” Herbert said.
“We started well again last night and should have been in front early on, but we kept going and in the end we were looking for the winner rather than just holding on and that approach paid off.”
The winning goal came in the 88th minute, courtesy of a superb header by Tim Brown who got on the end of a driven free kick by substitute Daniel.
Brown, who had spent much of the previous day in bed with a high temperature, was feeling the effects when the free-kick was awarded.
“I was absolutely stuffed and the thought crossed my mind not to go up for the free kick,” Brown said.
“Then I thought about a television programme I had watched earlier in the day in which (Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson talked about the importance of winning.
“That made me get up there and thank goodness I did.”