Calcott proud but rues defeat

He is nicknamed the "Godfather" and Ivan Vicelich displayed all the ruthlessness of a Mafia boss in killing off a gallant Team Wellington yesterday.

In the final act of a classic national league encounter, the ageless All White finished coolly at the left post to score Auckland City's winner at Kiwitea Street.

Wellington - whose captain, Adam McGeorge, was sent off in the 34th minute - went ahead twice, through Henry Fa'arodo and Cory Chettleburgh.

But Chris Bale and Manel Exposito provided the equalising goals before Vicelich struck in the fourth minute of injury time to make it 3-2.

Wellington coach Matt Calcott acknowledged "a helluva game" and was "really proud" of his "gutted" players.

But he had a grumble about the performance of referee Campbell-Kirk Waugh, who also handed Auckland a penalty that Exposito was unable to convert.

"He's a good referee but it's a pretty average day that he had," Calcott said.

"I'm not sure where the referee got four minutes of injury time from but never mind. Those things even out over the course of the season, don't they? Auckland got pretty lucky at the end there.

"But in saying that, in the 93rd minute, we've missed a pretty easy one-on-one chance and then they've gone up the other end and scored.

"So pretty cruel really but I can't fault the effort."

Fifth-placed Wellington will have to hop straight back on the horse as they host Auckland in the return match at David Farrington Park on Sunday.

It is a must-win if they are to have any shot of making the semifinals, with fourth-placed Canterbury United six points clear.

Calcott has been open about the difficulties of integrating the Phoenix's academy players into the national league fold this season.

But despite yesterday's heartbreak, he said things were finally starting to click.

"The group as a whole is starting to get much stronger but that's only because they're starting to get some time together. Early on, when we all came in, people were cruising and I think that was maybe a lack of competition and people wanted to get free lunches into the team on a weekly basis.

"But now that's changed a bit, and there's competition for places and people are working super hard.

"I'm really proud of their effort today; they're really gutted in the changing rooms at the moment but they were fantastic."

With midfielder McGeorge suspended for his tackle on Andrew Milne, Calcott will have to settle on a new skipper for Sunday.

He is hopeful Ryan Thomas will be available after the Oly White was named in yesterday's squad but not used because of a lingering knee problem.

Calcott admitted his team's semifinal aspirations had now slipped even further out of their own control.

"It may be it; we've just got to rely on other franchises and other matches don't we?

"We'll give it a good go on Sunday at Davey F and see where that takes us."

The Dominion Post