Phoenix still winless after stalemate

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 19:29 01/12/2013
Kenny Cunningham
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

NO WAY THROUGH: Kenny Cunningham tries to get around Western Sydney Wanderers 'keeper Ante Covic.

Carlos Hernandez
Getty Images
ANOTHER MISS: Carlos Hernandez and the Phoenix frontmen were let down by a lack of quality in front of goal in the side's 0-0 draw against Western Sydney.

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It is the story of the Wellington Phoenix's season.

Plenty of endeavour, a new willingness to keep the ball on the deck yet they remain without a win after a 0-0 stalemate with Western Sydney at Westpac Stadium.

It was a frustrating watch for the 7147 faithful.

Both teams had some decent chances to score but a draw was a fair result for two teams that ran their socks off but lacked real quality in front of goal.

The Wanderers will probably be content with the result given they were missing their best striker (Tomi Juric), midfielder (Shinji Ono) and defender (Jerome Polenz).

But for the Phoenix one point means they remain stuck near the foot of the ladder, moving up to eighth ahead of Adelaide United on goal difference.

In many areas there has been encouraging progress under new coach Ernie Merrick and the finals remain realistic but four draws and three losses mean they are starting to lose touch with the A-League's pacesetters.

The action was very willing but far from memorable as referee Lucien Laverdure gave his whistle a thorough workout.

Both teams had hopeful penalty claims dismissed while Wanderers striker Mark Bridge should have won it in the 77th minute when he fired well over with the goal at his mercy.

Five minutes later substitute Phoenix substitute Paul Ifill drew a sharp save from Ante Covic as the frustration grew and grew.

You couldn't fault the effort and if anything the Phoenix were possibly too desperate and tense to grab their first win - at times snatching at their chances.

Even Carlos Hernandez was tracking back and winning tackles but the Costa Rican is still to score a goal for his new club.

He had a great opportunity in the first half but scuffed his shot and was subbed off with a slight limp shortly after the break.

Merrick played all his cards early with subs Ifill, Michael Boxall and Tyler Boyd all entering the fray - Boxall in the unaccustomed position of holding midfield. But the action petered out somewhat.

Manny Muscat was excellent and didn't miss a beat in his new position at left back.

It means Reece Caira may be facing an uphill battle to get his starting spot back.

Andrew Durante has been below his usual high standards this season but he made an inspirational double contribution towards the end, sliding once for a crucial tackle and again for an equally important block.

Ben Sigmund and Ifill, again, went close at the death but it simply wasn't to be.

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- The Dominion Post

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