Wellington Phoenix held Central Coast Mariners to a 1-1 draw, Daniel McBreen’s penalty miss proving costly for the defending A-League champions.
Wellington Phoenix and gale-force winds battered defending A-League champions Central Coast Mariners to a 1-1 standstill at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams had their chances in the second spell after sharing honours with a goal apiece in the first half.
Daniel McBreen’s missed penalty in the 70th minute proved costly, but Mariners coach Phil Moss wasn’t about to point the finger.
“Macca’s our penalty taker, and he showed courage in these conditions to step up,” Moss said.
“Unfortunately tonight it didn’t go in but I’ve got nothing but praise for what he brings to the team.”
Striker Matt Simon, returning from injury in his fourth game in 12 months, opened the scoring for the Mariners in the 15th minute, only for hardworking Phoenix midfielder Kenny Cunningham to equalise in the shadow of halftime.
“All things considered, both teams put on a good game of football in difficult conditions,” Moss said.
“It was a big improvement in our performance this week after the last few weeks.
“I thought our defensive structure was good for very long periods, and our ball speed and ball movement playing through the line was outstanding.
“That should give us a lot of confidence going forward because that’s an area of our game we’ve struggled with.”
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was happy to see his team continue to improve, especially playing in winds gusting up to 100km/h.
He was especially pleased with the way the Phoenix lifted after a sloppy first half.
“In the second half I thought we played good football – we were camped in their half for the first 15 minutes,” he said.
“But we’re still having trouble with that final pass. They’ve got a very good set-up in the back four, with two players that continually sit in there in Nick Montgomery and John Hutchinson.”
The Mariners edged up into third place on 21 points with the draw, five astray of second-placed Wanderers, while the Phoenix still sit ninth.
After going for 10 games without a win, Wellington now have three wins and a draw from their last four starts, and Merrick says the focus now is to maintain momentum with tough matches coming up against Melbourne and Brisbane Roar.
“When you’re on a roll there’s a tendency to take a few things for granted, and get carried away with the moment.
“Yes, we’ve been gathering momentum and playing good football, but it’s something we’ve continually got to work at.”