A late Jason Hicks free kick earned Wellington Phoenix a 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets at Hutt Recreational Ground near Wellington in New Zealand on Sunday.
Deep into time added on, Hicks guided a crafty, curling strike beyond Jets custodian Ben Kennedy to restore parity to a contest in which Phil Stubbins’ side led 2-0 as early as the 18th minute.
Indeed, the Jets put in a determined, dogged display in front of over 8,000 passionate Phoenix supporters at the boutique Hutt Valley venue, but couldn’t quite hold on against Ernie Merrick’s charges---a team that at times produced energetic, attacking football capable of undoing any Hyundai A-League outfit.
Newcastle took the lead in the 12th minute of play when Lee Ki-je’s corner was directed into the back of Glen Moss’s goal by his teammate Roly Bonevacia.
And, it was from another set-piece situation that the Jets doubled their advantage soon after as Scott Neville raced to the front post to nod Andrew Hoole’s cross from a corner home.
With names such as Nathan Burns, Roy Krishna and Michael McGlinchey in their side, Wellington were always going to prove difficult to contain from a defensive viewpoint for the Jets, and it was the Australian Burns and Fijian Krishna who combined to pull a goal back for the ‘Nix in the 68th minute. Less than 60 seconds after the Jets had spurned an opportunity to make the score 3-0, Burns crossed for Krishna who fired home to make the score 2-1.
And though the Novocastrians had Ben Kantarovski dismissed in the 86th minute for a second bookable offence, it appeared the men from Hunter Stadium had done enough to earn a valuable win on the road against the formidable Phoenix. That was until, of course, Hicks produced a sizzling strike late, late in the fixture to restore parity to the match.
Post-game Jets boss Stubbins said that a draw against the ‘Nix away was a respectable result, yet he couldn’t quite hide his disappointment at not taking all three Hyundai A-League points away from the land of the long white cloud.
“Obviously the end outcome is something that is disappointing,” Stubbins said.
“We’ve come here, we’ve got ourselves a two-goal lead, and to come away from here with a two-all draw is something that prior to the game you would think of as an acceptable result.”
“Having said that, we had a genuine opportunity to get the three points, so to have it snatched from us in the fashion that we did is certainly disappointing.”
“I think we also had opportunities to win the game.”
Stubbins took nothing away from the Hyundai A-League Finals Series bound Wellingtonians, and said they deserved a “pat on the back”.
“The Phoenix really pressed us hard to get themselves back in the game, and they obviously got the parity in the game very late in the contest,” he said. “But that’s the sign of a good side.”
“They [Phoenix] need to get a pat on the back for achieving that, but certainly from our perspective I think that the way that we acquitted ourselves and tried to run the game out and do everything that we could to try and get a result is something that we’re proud of.”
“I think the kids that [we had] out there will be learning a helluva lot.”
The Jets will return to Australia on Monday to begin preparations for Saturday’s third and final #F3Derby of Hyundai A-League season ten. Newcastle face arch-rivals Central Coast Mariners at Hunter Stadium on Saturday 28 February with kick-off at 5:00pm.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Krishna 68’, Hicks 90+4’)
Newcastle Jets 2 (Bonevacia (OG) 12’, Neville 18’)
Hutt Recreational Ground, Lower Hutt, NZ
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Glen MOSS (Gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Roly BONEVACIA (7. Kenny CUNNINGHAM 66’), 5. Michael BOXALL, 8. Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9. Nathan BURNS, 10. Michael MCGLINCHEY (15. Jason HICKS 71’), 13. Albert RIERA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22. Andrew DURANTE (C)
Substitutes not used: 17. Vince LIA, 19. Tom DOYLE, 20. Lewis ITALIANO (Gk)
Yellow cards: Muscat, Rodriguez
Red cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets: 2. Scott NEVILLE (26. Nicholas COWBURN 83’), 3. Taylor REGAN, 5. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 8. Zenon CARAVELLA, 11. Andrew HOOLE, 12. Sam GALLAGHER (19. Mitch COOPER 55’), 13. Edson MONTANO (27. Radovan PAVICEVIC 79’), 16. Jacob PEPPER (C), 20. Ben KENNEDY (Gk), 21. Ki-je LEE, 22. Daniel MULLEN
Substitutes not used: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (Gk), 18. Allan WELSH
Yellow cards: Hoole, Montano, Kantarovski (x2), Gallagher
Red cards: Kantarovski