Phoenix scrap past Jets

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Wellington Phoenix have won a hard-fought three points at home against playoff rivals the Newcastle Jets this evening, thanks to Dylan Macallister’s sixth goal of the season.

It was a crucial game for two sides getting close to must-win situations in their playoff bids and the opening minutes reflected that, as the ball pinged around a scrappy midfield.

The Phoenix got the first chance when Brown played Lochhead down the left side, but his cross was just too high for Macallister’s run and Rojas, at the back post, couldn’t get more than a skimming header on it.

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Rojas’ next contribution was more emphatic. The young kiwi picked up the ball 60 yards out on the right sideline, flew past D’apuzzo and drove goalwards. He got to the Jets’ box before matching his brilliant run with the perfect ball for Macallister. Macallister’s glancing finish flew into the top corner and the Phoenix were one up on the 20 minute mark.

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It had been difficult to see where the Jets could find a goal, but with ten minutes left in the half they nearly did. Brockie – who’d been isolated up front for the Jets – found himself in space just inside the box after Durante slipped, but Sigmund did enough with his sliding challenge to smother the shot and bail his captain out.

The half had suddenly come to life late on, and Macallister should have replicated his combination with Rojas to make it two, but this time he took a touch and stumbled over the ball when he was through clean on goal.

A minute later Brockie had a similar chance to equalise when he burst in behind a Phoenix back four caught square, but his first time finish lacked conviction and Vukovic saved comfortably.

The Jets started the second half knowing they would probably need to offer more attacking purpose to get something out of the game, and they nearly equalised almost instantly. Jesic strode forward and let fly from close to 30 yards out.

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His strike crashed back off the post with Vukovic frozen.

Vukovic needed to be on his toes soon after, and he was to make a great save against a Ryan Griffiths bicycle kick that was headed for the bottom corner.

Griffiths’ next contribution was less glamorous. It appeared Muscat had handled and Griffiths made a beeline for Chris Beath to let him know his thoughts. The referee was less than prepared to hear Griffiths’ input and produced a straight red to match the yellow he got earlier.

The Jets had it all to do but they responded with a good little spell of possession before the game once again got scrappy. The Phoenix couldn’t quite control the tempo but were comfortable enough absorbing the increasingly tired efforts of the ten man Jets until the final whistle.

A massive three points for the Phoenix, then, that propel them into a playoff position for the time being, at least.

The Jets might consider themselves unlucky not to get a point after they were denied by poor finishing in the first half and the post and Vukovic in the second, but they are now running out of games and need points fast.

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