Win welcome respite for Phoenix
The Wellington Phoenix have clawed their way off the bottom of the A-League table after beating fellow strugglers Perth Glory 1-0 in Auckland.
But the performance against the league's new cellar dwellers will not convince many that they are capable of fully reviving their season to reach the post-season playoffs for the fourth successive year.
Perth manager Ian Ferguson declined to comment on the quality of the Phoenix display - saying he didn't want his opinion to get him into trouble - but thought his side controlled much of the game.
In the end Jeremy Brockie's 41st-minute effort, a diving header from close range, was the deciding factor at Eden Park. It ended a run of five games without a win.
The Phoenix marginally deserved the win, but didn't make life easy for themselves. They were reluctant to push for more goals and in doing so, invited Perth to attack.
Coach Ricki Herbert admitted the tactic after taking the lead was one of caution.
He acknowledged a stout defensive effort as that of a "Phoenix team of old".
"I kind of thought we got something out of it and deserved it," Herbert said.
"In my mind I thought it was going to be one of those games today, two desperate teams, ninth and 10th on the table.
"I'm pleased with the goal and we defended really stoutly today. It kind of looked like a side that was wanting the points.
"When you've been travelling like we have been, there's always that little sensitivity about what you're doing.
"We got the job done and that's been a real solid trait of the club," Herbert said.
"I was saying to the staff on the bench, it was kind of like old days, that."
Behind the win, the performance of debutant Ian Hogg will be one of the biggest positives for Phoenix camp.
Stepping in for a suspended Tony Lochhead, Hogg hardly put a foot wrong although he looked short of match fitness.
There was also a first start for Isaka Cernak, who Herbert kept on the park for the full 90 minutes.
A crowd of 11,566 attended the match, well down on the more than 20,000 who greeted the Phoenix in Auckland last year.
The attendance is the second highest "home" crowd of the Phoenix's season so far, behind the opening day which saw 12,057 in Wellington, and a considerable jump on recent weeks in the capital.
Yesterday also brought a fifth yellow card of the season for defender Ben Sigmund, who will be suspended for the Phoenix's next game, a formidable trip to league leaders Central Coast Mariners on Thursday.
Herbert said Sigmund's suspension could see Michael Boxall drafted in as cover.
Overall, he was happy to take the points after a hard-working week and refocus for a tough challenge in four days' time.
"Look, it's three points, it gives us a small amount of relief," Herbert said.
"It's a big one against the league leaders next."
Sunday Star Times