An emotional Chris Greenacre is bracing for a grim struggle to avoid the wooden spoon after his Phoenix coaching debut ended in a loss last night.
The 2-1 defeat to Newcastle at least put the Phoenix out of their misery, ending remote hopes of qualifying for the A-League finals.
It was hard not to feel for the caretaker coach as a dramatic week caught up with Greenacre following Ricki Herbert’s resignation on Monday.
“It’s like a morgue in there at the minute,” said Greenacre of the dressing room.
“They’re hurting, they’ve been hurting a lot this season. We’ve set our stall out, since I’ve been at this club, to be minimum in the finals and to finally not make it, I’m hurting a lot. Yeah, a low point.”
Thrust unexpectedly into the hot seat in his rookie coaching season, Greenacre had spoken passionately about a late playoff push.
But first half goals to Adam Taggart and Michael Bridges killed off that prospect.
After the initial emotion and huff and puff wore off it was the same old story as the Phoenix failed basic defensive tasks and lacked imagination in attack.
Yellow Fever did their best to inspire, unfurling a giant ‘Sir Ricki’ banner and welcoming Greenacre with a chant.
The former Phoenix striker looked like he wanted to be out on the pitch as he paced about the technical area in a tracksuit all night.
Jeremy Brockie provided hope with a second half strike but that was all as Wellington remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder with four games to play.
“I don’t want to finish bottom of the league that is for sure,” Greenacre said.
“Today, my wife will vouch for me, it’s been difficult to keep it inside. I wouldn’t have minded the kickoff to have been a little bit earlier. A rollercoaster few days and we’ll pick ourselves up now and go again [against Melbourne Heart in Dunedin on Sunday.]
The Englishman is in an interesting position, having been hired as an assistant coach for two years last July.
But he was very much a Herbert appointment and his future will probably hinge on the whims of the incoming head coach.
Taggart opened the scoring in the 19th minute.
Josh Brillante sent in a simple cross and an unmarked Taggart struck with surety to give Glen Moss no hope.
It was similarly soft on the brink of halftime, as Craig Goodwin’s free kick met Bridges’ head for 2-0 and a few boos rang out among the sparse crowd of 4025 who demanded more fight on home soil.
They got that after the break through Brockie’s 13th goal of the season.
The All Whites striker pounced on the rebound after Louis Fenton latched onto a risky back pass and shot into Mark Birighitti’s head.
Greenacre threw all his substitutes into the fray but the Jets defence dealt with a steady stream of hopeful crosses.
Will Southampton finish in the EPL top four?