For the third consecutive game to open the 2013/14 A-League season, Newcastle Jets failed to score. But they did, for the second straight week, keep their opponents from scoring as the visitors recorded a 0-0 draw with Wellington Phoenix in front of 9020 at McLean Park in Napier, New Zealand. Both clubs are at the bottom of the ladder, along with Melbourne Heart, with two draws and a loss this season.
Gary Van Egmond altered his line-up significantly with three changes from last week and seven players 22-years-old or younger. Perhaps it was to make a point to his more veteran players or maybe it was just to try something new after failing to score in the first two weeks, but whatever the reason, the Jets were again unable to add their name to the score sheet. Captain Ruben Zadkovich did strike the crossbar with a free kick in the first half and Glen Moss was forced to make several key saves to keep the home side on level terms, but Newcastle simply do not have the finishing touch right now. Of their nineteen shots, only six were on target. Emile Heskey's expected return next weekend figures to improve the Jets' attack.
For the Phoenix, the match was also disappointing, especially after the impressive comeback draw they produced last weekend at Western Sydney Wanderers. Wellington put just two shots on target, despite holding 53% of possession. The side that looked so composed in the second half last week could not gain much traction in a first half dominated by the Jets. Though Wellington were better in the second half, it was not a performance that deserved three points. Though the match was in Napier, not at the Cake Tin in Wellington, the Phoenix have a distinct advantage in home games. Indeed, five of the club's seven wins last season came in New Zealand. If Ernie Merrick cannot count on results at home, the Phoenix are likely to stay near the bottom of the ladder all year.
Wellington will be the first opponent to face the Kevin Muscat-led Melbourne Victory when they travel to Etihad Stadium for a Monday November 4 game. Life gets no easier for Newcastle as the Jets host Central Coast Mariners on Saturday November 2 at the Hunter Stadium.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss; Caira, Durante, Sigmund, Bertos; Ifill (Riera 46'), Muscat, LIa (Hicks 71'); Huysegms (Cunningham 81'), Hernandez; Brockie
Unused subs: Spoonley, Boxall
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti; Gallaway, Jaliens, Chapman, Neville; Hoole (Brown 70'), Zadkovich (Pepper 64'), Katarovski; Burns, Brillante; Taggart (Bridges 75')
Unused subs: Kennedy, Caravella