A GRITTY, no-frills effort from the Wellington Phoenix earned them a valuable competition point in the Hyundai A-League with a 0-0 draw against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Before a 6926-strong Wellington crowd, the home side showed plenty of character to snare their second point of the season and give coach Ricki Herbert a solid base from which to work on in coming weeks.
A hard-working defensive effort, led by captain Andrew Durante and ably assisted by Jon McKain, ensured the spoils were shared. But it was goalkeeper Glen Moss that arguably was the man-of-the-match, the Phoenix custodian once again proving an impenetrable last line to breach.
The Phoenix, eager to make amends for a disappointing effort in their last outing against Adelaide United, opened with great industry and purpose, but their final pass into the attacking third could not break the visitors- defensive screen.
As the half progressed the talents of Phoenix and New Zealand stopper Moss came to the fore.
The home side had a massive let-off early when Moss saved a diving, close-range Sasho Petrovski header in the fifth minute. Moss was on hand again 10 minutes later when a 25m centrefield free kick from Mile Jedinak hit Moss- right post before bouncing into the path of Bradley Porter. Moss blocked Porter-s strike inside the penalty box to avert danger.
Later in the half Moss tipped clear an in swinging corner from Matthew Osman as the Phoenix continued to repel attacking forays from the visitors. Osman again engaged Moss- services with a forceful low drive from 20m defused near halftime.
Richard Johnson was issued a yellow card early on for a challenge on Mariners defender Andrew Clark, the tackle forcing him temporarily from the field. Johnson was joined in the caution column of referee Strebre Delovski-s notebook by Karl Dodd and Troy Hearfield in the first half.
Phoenix frontrunner Shane Smeltz almost gave the home side the advantage in the 63rd minute when he made a penetrating run inside the penalty area before being closed down before he could take strike. A desperate defence scrambled the ball clear, but only as far as Hearfield – his close range strike superbly deflected by Mariners goalkeeper Mark Bosnich on to a defender and to safety.
The introduction of Leilei Gao for Hearfield in the 74th minute sparked the Phoenix attack, his direct running drawing close attention from the Mariners- defence.
Moss was forced to save low and to his right a shot from Andrew Clark, and then at the feet of an advancing Adrian Caceres late in the piece, to ensure a valuable competition point was gained.
Late strikes by veteran front man Vaughan Coveny, who showed no signs of slowing down for the full 90 minutes, and replacement midfielder Tim Brown almost snatched victory for the Phoenix, but their attempts were wide of the mark.
Hyundai A-League, Round Four
Sunday, September 14
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Wellington Phoenix 0
Central Coast Mariners 0
Wellington Phoenix: 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD (6. Tim BROWN 87-), 8. Vaughan COVENY, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 11. DANIEL (18. Ben SIGMUND 53-), 12. Richard JOHNSON, 13. Troy HEARFIELD (21. Leilei GAO 54-), 16. David MULLIGAN, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain).
Substitutes not used: 1. Mark PASTON (gk).
Yellow cards: Richard JOHNSON 6-, Karl DODD 18-, Troy HEARFIELD 45-.
Central Coast Mariners: 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 15. Andrew CLARK (6. David D’APUZZO 83-), 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Matthew OSMAN, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Sasho PETROVSKI (10. Adrian CACERES 53-), 23. Mile JEDINAK, 40. Mark BOSNICH (gk).
Substitutes not used: 13. Paul O’GRADY, 30. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk).
Yellow cards: John HUTCHINSON 51-, Pedj BOJIC 54-.