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All square for Phoenix, Jets

Sunday, 27 January 2013 4:40 PM
 

All square for Phoenix, Jets

A second-half header from Newcastle Jets striker Emile Heskey denied Wellington Phoenix a much-needed win as the teams battled to a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium.

Both sides ended the physical encounter with 10 men after Jets defender Sam Gallaway and Phoenix left-back Tony Lochhead each picked up two yellow cards to earn early baths.

Lochhead's departure was the more costly of the two as Heskey scored the Jets' equaliser from the resulting free-kick, given for a foul on James Virgili.

That scrambled goal in the 74th minute cancelled out Louis Fenton's 21st-minute effort for Wellington and leaves the New Zealand club still stuck at the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder.

After last week's capitulation the Phoenix had promised to show the grit, determination and fighting spirit they have produced since joining the competition in 2007.

And no one epitomised that more than Manny Muscat at Westpac Stadium.

The Phoenix are a different side when the former Maltese international is tucked in just in front of the back four which is why they need him on the pitch and not cooling his heels in the stands through suspension.

He harried and hassled the Jets all afternoon and chased down everything, which meant centre-backs Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund were rarely over-run as they have been during Muscat's three-game ban.

That's not to say there weren't some hairy moments in defence, the worst being Durante's back pass to Mark Paston, which was almost pounced on by Heskey

The other big difference for Wellington was Paul Ifill, who replaced Stein Huysegems for his first start since ankle surgery.

Ifill is the Phoenix's talisman for a reason and he set up Fenton's goal with a great touch that wrong-footed Scott Neville after another superb long ball from Sigmund.

Ifill's cross into the box for Dani Sanchez was pinpoint and although keeper Mark Birighitti got a hand to it he was only able to punch it into Sanchez's path, with Fenton pouncing on the ricochet to slide home and score.

The Jets were not without their chances in the first half, however.

Paston had to make a smart save to deny James Brown with a curling free-kick just three minutes into the match before Craig Goodwin saw his effort slide just past the far post a few minutes later.

The Phoenix also had two good chances before Fenton earned the breakthrough, with Durante heading into the side netting in the 11th minute while Birighitti denied Jeremy Brockie after a great ball over the top from Sigmund moments before Fenton scored.

Jets pair Galloway and Taylor Regan and Wellington's Lochhead were all booked in the first half and Galloway was given his marching orders by referee Ben Williams in the 55th minute for a second yellow card.

The defender had tussled with Tyler Boyd constantly down his left flank and his cynical trip on the forward on the edge of the box left Williams with no alternative.

Lochhead's game also ended early after he brought down Virgili in the 72nd minute to earn his second yellow and from the resulting free-kick Heskey equalised.

Paston failed to clear Virgili's initial header at the back post and Heskey out-jumped the Phoenix 'keeper to nod home.

Fenton then had a chance to claim all three points but couldn't scramble the ball past Birighitti who saved on the line.

The two clubs' respective new signings Isaka Cernak, for the Phoenix, and the Jets' Zenon Caravella both got time off the bench late in the second half but had little chance to make a major impact.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Fenton 21)
Newcastle Jets 1 (Heskey 74)
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Manny Muscat The no-nonsense midfielder bring a great deal of stability to Wellington - something they need quite a lot of right now.
Crowd: 6,429 @Westpac Stadium

 
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