WELLINGTON Phoenix secured their first back-to-back wins in the Hyundai A-League with an incident-filled 2-0 win against the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Sunday.
The Phoenix, playing with a one-man advantage for just over an hour – and a two-man buffer for 40 minutes – left it late to collect the three competition points, striker Shane Smeltz collecting his eighth goal of the season via his head with 11 minutes remaining. When replacement attacking midfielder Troy Hearfield scored six minutes later the home crowd of 5500 could begin to celebrate.
Given the solid defensive effort in the last-up win against Sydney FC, regular Phoenix captain Andrew Durante was forced to watch from the bench with coach Ricki Herbert retaining the back four that performed admirably in Sydney.
The opening exchanges were open and played full field, with Phoenix guest player Fred looking to link with fellow frontmen Shane Smeltz and Leo Bertos.
For all that, there were only two real chances in front of goal in the first half. The visitors had the first shot in anger on 12 minutes when Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston was caught well off his line, but Marko Jesic-s strike went just wide of the open goal.
The Phoenix replied with a goal-bound effort in seven minutes later through midfielder Michael Ferrante, but his strike posed few problems for Jets custodian Ante Covic.
Griffiths was given his marching orders by referee Matthew Breeze with a straight red card in the 29th minute for an act of petulance when he kicked Phoenix defender Karl Dodd.
Jesic-s radar remained disconnected from its target early in the second half, Paston able to watch the close-range, angled strike pass safely wide of his right-hand post. Moments later Ferrante was again on target, but with little power his shot was easily covered low by Covic.
The game shifted firmly the Phoenix-s way when Jets- Mark Milligan was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Fred in the 50th minute.
Paston was forced to save low to his right to deny a 25m free kick from Matt Thompson soon after, with the home side initially unable to take full control of the two-man advantage. Defender Jon McKain had a long range strike fly over Covic-s crossbar as the Phoenix looked to press.
A delightful back heel by Bertos to Fred found the Brazilian on goal but he was unable to pull the trigger before being closed down.
To spark more life into the Phoenix, coach Herbert introduced attacking midfielder Hearfield, with Fred making way after an industrious debut. Daniel came on soon after, replacing defender Manny Muscat in the 75th minute.
It took till the 79th minute before Smeltz was on hand to head home from close range after a delightful right-hand cross from Hearfield gave the valiant Covic no chance.
Hearfield doubled the advantage six minutes later when he slid the ball past Covic after presented with a one-on-one chance by Bertos.
The Jets- misery was complete in injury time when Tarek Elrich, fouled in the penalty area by Dodd, had his spot kick saved by Paston.
The only low point for the home side was Dodd collecting his fifth yellow card of the season, which means he will miss the next match against Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium on Friday.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Shane Smeltz 79-, Troy Hearfield 86-)
Newcastle Jets 0
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 25. Manny MUSCAT (11. DANIEL 75-), 27. FRED (13. Troy HEARFIELD 70-).
Substitutes not used: 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE
Yellow cards: Tony Lochhead 53-, Karl Dodd 76-
Red cards: None
Newcastle Jets: 1. Ante COVIC (gk), 2. Adam GRIFFITHS, 3. Jade NORTH (c), 5. James HOLLAND, 8. Matt THOMPSON (6. Jesper HAKANSSON 81-), 9. Joel GRIFFITHS, 10. Jin-Hyung SONG (13. Adam D-APUZZO 57-), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 16. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 24. Marko JESIC (19. Jason NAIDOVSKI 88-), 26. Mark MILLIGAN.
Substitutes not used: 20. Ben KENNEDY (gk)
Yellow cards: Adam Griffiths 54-
Red cards: Joel Griffiths 29-, Mark Milligan 52-