WELLINGTON Phoenix’s first away win of the season has come at a critical juncture and coach Ricki Herbert is aiming to ensure his men ride a wave of confidence into the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 playoffs.
WELLINGTON Phoenix-s first away win of the season has come at a critical juncture and coach Ricki Herbert is aiming to ensure his men ride a wave of confidence into the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 playoffs.
The 1-0 win against the Newcastle Jets on a hot evening in the Hunter Valley saw the New Zealand-based club climb to fifth on the table as the competition heads into the business end.
It was another gutsy performance from the Phoenix, with a solid defensive effort setting the platform for the win at EnergyAustralia Stadium following Paul Ifill-s 14th-minute goal for the visitors.
The classy Briton poked home Tony Lochhead-s cross to ensure the Phoenix-s first win on the road since round 11 last season against Sydney FC, although they-ve looked good value for away wins in several matches thus far this season.
Herbert, who sat in a coach-s box in the stand at the game to ensure he didn-t expose his players to a stomach illness he was suffering, pulled the strings superbly and was thrilled with how his team stepped up to the challenge in the 42-degree Celsius heat.
Despite the Phoenix-s New Zealand internationals backing up from last weekend-s incredible World Cup qualifying win against Bahrain in Wellington, the Phoenix were still able to dominate the Jets across the park.
“If we-ve ever been vulnerable going into a match it was probably this one,” Herbert said. “We had a lot of guys back on international duty and that created a degree of disruption to our training, but everyone in the squad came back into training during the week having really lifted and they brought that across to Newcastle.
“The confidence is in a good place and we-re in a good position. This competition is always going to be tight but to be where we are on the table and to be playing the football we are at the moment coming out of the (halfway) turn is extremely pleasing.”
The Wellington side-s ability to shut down the Jets after taking the early lead was particularly impressive.
“We grafted well after we scored,” said Herbert. “Nobody likes going through those sorts of games, those 1-0 affairs that can be a little bit dour, but I think it-ll do us a lot of good because we have to learn how to do it if we-re to make the playoffs. It-s about clearing your line, getting balls away and eliminating mistakes.
“We weren-t under a great deal of pressure throughout but when they did have chances we were able to snuff them out.”
Ifill continues to cement his reputation as one of the best players in the competition but Herbert was equally pleased with the work rate and cohesion of all his players from front to back.
“We-ve varied Paul-s role, playing him wide on some occasions and more centrally on others. We believed that be playing him in the middle against the Jets he-d be able to cause problems with his pace and technique and that was certainly the case. But this win was more about how the whole team was able to link together going forward and on defence. We managed to hold the ball, shut them down and create opportunities at the other end. It was a true 11-man performance.”
The heat of Hunter will give the Phoenix a taste of the conditions they are likely to experience in the next game, away to Brisbane Roar on Sunday.