Four quality goals from Jeremy Brockie propelled the Wellington Phoenix to a 5-2 win over Shillong Lajong in Imphal today.
With Newcastle Jets last season Brockie earned himself a reputation for scoring spectacular goals and after his fourth yesterday the close to 20,000 fans inside the stadium, would have understood why.
In the 86th minute, with the Phoenix leading 3-2, Leo Bertos sent a lovely diagonal ball from the right to the far post and Brockie volleyed it so powerfully into the net that had the goalkeeper got in the way he would have ended in the net as well.
That goal, his third with the left foot, capped a superb all-round display that showed why coach Ricki Herbert had been desperate to sign him during the off season.
Brockie had opened the scoring with a sweet lob in the 15th minute after Louis Fenton, who again produced an encouraging display, had combined with Paul Ifill to get him behind the Shillong defence.
Four minutes before halftime Brockie made it 2-0 with a firm, low strike, then completed his hat-trick in the 60th minute with another low drive.
Academy player Tom Biss added the fifth goal in stoppage time, after Brockie nodded on a long throw, to cap a solid senior starting debut.
Shillong’s goals came in the second half when the Phoenix made a number of changes.
A defensive mix up allowed Friday Gbeneme to slip the ball into an empty net and the same player added the second 10 minutes later.
A beaming Brockie said the last time he scored four goals in a game was “probably in the under 10s”.
“It was a good day because you always enjoy it when you are scoring goals,” Brockie said.
“The main thing is that the combinations are starting to work and the more we work and train the better it will become.
“The conditions weren’t easy today because the pitch was rough and the temperature must have been in the high 30s.
“That is two strong efforts we’ve put together and we can build on it.”
Herbert agreed with Brockie’s assessment of the pitch, calling it “an incredibly difficult surface”.
“It was another solid performance on a pitch that didn’t help the fluency of our passing, and I couldn’t fault the work-rate and commitment that led to five quality goals,” Herbert said.
“After the first game on tour (a 3-0 win over United Sikkim on Friday) we had all the squad out training the following day because that is part of our physical programme.
“There is some fatigue there but you will always encounter that at top level.”
The Phoenix move on to Shillong tomorrow where they will play an I-League selection in a friendly on Wednesday before taking on either URO United Sikkim or Shillong Lajong in the final of the North East Super Series on Saturday.
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss (Scott Basalaj 67m), Leo Bertos, Michael Boxall (Alec Solomons 67m), Tony Lochhead, Luke Rowe (Cameron Lindsay 55m), Jeremy Brockie, Alex Smith, Tom Biss, Benji Totori, Louis Fenton (Tyler Boyd 85m), Paul Ifill (Tom Doyle 45m).