Jeremy Brockie's efforts earn praise from coach
All Whites striker Jeremy Brockie grabbed his 15th pre-season goal for the Wellington Phoenix and has declared himself up for the challenge of carrying his golden run into the A-League campaign.
The 24-year-old pounced to score the Phoenix's 47th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw with A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers before a crowd of 7000 at Christchurch's AMI Stadium yesterday.
Coach Ricki Herbert said his off-season signing was "doing a great job" at the top of the Phoenix attack.
Brockie was robbed of a second goal when a defender cleared his late lob off the line and he also provided a perfect cross into the Western Sydney box which young striker Tyler Boyd should have buried from close range.
After playing most his A-League football on the midfield flanks, Brockie is enjoying his time as a central striker.
"I played up there at the end of last season and scored goals [for the Newcastle Jets]. I think I showed I can play there and Ricki wants me to play as a striker from now on," Brockie said.
"This is my best pre-season [for scoring goals] but I need to carry that into the season when we start playing for points."
The Phoenix produced a spluttering display in the first half but came out blazing after the restart to force an early corner.
Western Sydney failed to clear their lines and Phoenix right back Leo Bertos got time and space to pick out Brockie in the Wanderers' penalty area. It was the first serious attempt at goal by the Phoenix who failed to give quick, slick service to Brockie and his new striking partner, former Belgian international Stein Huysegems, in the first half.
Western Sydney were hardly more dynamic on attack with Dino Kresinger a lone ranger up front.
But they snatched the lead through a superbly struck 23m freekick by their most creative player, midfielder Aaron Mooy, in the 27th minute.
Herbert said his side failed to scale any heights in the opening stanza, but he felt they upped the tempo after the interval.
"I thought we finished the game very strongly and had the better chances to go on and win it.
"It was good to get some of the main players 90 minutes, guys like Dura [Andrew Durante], [Manny] Muscat and Siggy [Ben Sigmund], who haven't played much [due to suspensions]. We brought a young team down . . . and it was good to get four of those on in the last 20 minutes.
"I thought Louis Fenton was superb today for a young guy, and he will only get better."
Muscat got stronger as the game wore on in his midfield holding role as the Phoenix transitioned quicker to attack mode.
Solomon Islands international Benji Totori showed flashes of skill and evasiveness and Herbert said once he had adjusted to the level of physical preparation required, he would "more than cope" at A-League level.
Durante, Sigmund and left back Tony Lochhead formed a solid rearguard for the Phoenix and Herbert was happy with Bertos' first real test at right back after his move back from midfield.
"Look around the league at the right backs and, athletically, he's got be right up there."