Phoenix claim first point since December

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 18:53 27/01/2013
Paul Ifill
Getty Images
KNOCKED DOWN: Wellington's Paul Ifill stumbles in the tackle of Newcastle's Scott Neville during their 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium.

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The Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets played out a fair 1-all draw, at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Both sides tried hard, but were short on quality and neither could argue that they absolutely deserved to win. Each had chances to, but couldn’t, and a draw was a useful reflection of a scrappy encounter played before 6429 fans.

The first half ebbed and flowed, with the Phoenix probably having the best of it.

Newcastle ought to have gone ahead in the seventh minute, when Ben Sigmund was beaten and the ball broke to Jets wing Craig Goodwin. With goalkeeper Mark Paston rooted to the spot, Goodwin only needed to get a shot either side of him.

The best he could do was drag his left-foot effort wide and everyone in the crowd joined Sigmund in breathing a huge sigh of relief.

It was about the time the honest central defender had caused to blush all half. Back to his robust best in defence, his long balls were also causing Newcastle problems. Never mind the sexy stuff, Sigmund was going down route one and to good effect.

He put striker Jeremy Brockie away in the 17th minute, but Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti bravely came off his line and made himself big enough to partially block Brockie’s shot and deflect it out for a corner.

A goal seemed to be coming, though, and it duly arrived four minutes later. Again Sigmund initiated the opportunity with a clever switch of play out to Paul Ifill on the left flank.

His dangerous cross almost caused Birighitti and the Phoenix’s Dani Sanchez to collide. Both got something on the ball, which fell to Louis Fenton and the midfielder calmly slotted it into the net to give his team a deserved 1-0 lead.

Not a lot happened after that but, after the shambolic 7-1 defeat against Sydney FC the game before, that would’ve suited the Phoenix just fine.

Things got even better for them, in the 54th minute, when Newcastle left back Samuel Gallaway was deemed to have committed his second bookable offence. Gallaway definitely tripped Tyler Boyd, but the theatrical dive and he fact the offence occurred on the edge of the penalty area conned referee Ben Williams into brandishing his yellow and red cards.

Newcastle hadn’t offered much on attack for some time and, down to 10-men, that didn’t look like it would change.

That was until the 72nd minute when Phoenix left back Tony Lochhead earned a second yellow of his own. Again, it didn’t look anything much, but it was enough for Williams and Newcastle, who equalized from the resultant freekick.

Newcastle striker Emile Heskey was too strong in the air for Paston, nodding the ball into the net from point-blank range to make it 1-all.

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The game suddenly found new life and Fenton was denied a second goal by just centimeters, when Birighitti snaffled a goal-bound effort following a Brockie cross in the 80th minute.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Louis Fenton) Newcastle Jets 1 (Emile Heskey). HT: 1-0.

- The Dominion Post

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