Adelaide has never been a happy hunting ground for the Phoenix, but on New Year’s Eve you couldn’t wipe the smile off the Wellington players’ faces after they beat United 3-1
It was only the second time in the Wellington club’s history – the first was in 2012 – that they had taken three points from the City of Churches.
The points, which moved the Phoenix above Adelaide into third place on the Hyundai A-League ladder, tasted even sweeter after they had lost to a controversial 93rd minute goal on their previous visit a few weeks earlier.
It wasn’t one of their most fluent performances this season but one of the gutsiest.
Both teams had been robbed of important players through international call ups or injury, but in the Phoenix’ case Kenny Cunningham and Tyler Boyd stepped into the hole left by strikers Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna with distinction.
Cunningham, an all-action player, opened the scoring in the 54th minute after good work by Jeremy Brockie, while Boyd came off the bench in the 71st minute to score twice.
Boyd’s first goal came courtesy of a top-class left-foot finish within six minutes of him taking the field and he added the second in the 93rd minute.
Merrick was delighted with the way the pair took their chances after not figuring in the starting line up in the recent weeks.
“Tyler, Kenny and Jeremy were having their first run for a while but they have been scoring consistently in training,” the coach said.
“I knew we still had firepower with Burns and Krishna out. It was just a case of could they transfer their training performances to match day.
“Tyler took his chances really well and his first goal was perfectly timed as Adelaide had equalised four minutes earlier.
“That is something we have been working on. When the opposition score we have to reply with a goal as soon as possible.
“At times we haven’t had the mental toughness to finish teams off but we are getting there.
“When we were last here we lost the game in the 93rd minute so it was great tonight to see us play to the 93rd.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Louis Fenton, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera, Roly Bonevacia (Michael Boxall 91m), Vince Lia, Michael McGlinchey, Kenny Cunningham (Tyler Boyd 71m), Jeremy Brockie (Alex Rodriguez 84m).