Despite Craig Goodwin bringing Newcastle Jets level on two different occasions, Wellington Phoenix found a third goal and leapt into a finals position on Saturday. The three points gathered in a 3-2 win at the Hunter Stadium finally give Ernie Merrick the status he has craved since moving to Wellington in the offseason. By no means is a finals appearance guaranteed, but after last season's wooden spoon performance, the Phoenix are in good shape.
Most important for Merrick's squad is the health and skill of Carlos Hernandez. The Costa Rican has now scored four times in the past four games and continues to rack up assists for the Phoenix. Stein Huysegems, in particular, has benefitted from Herandez's presence though Jason Hicks was the beneficiary for the match winner on Saturday in Newcastle.
The loss was unfortunate for the Jets as Goodwin starred and the team scored twice without winning for the second straight week. Newcastle have just one point since the January 19 sacking of Gary van Egmond and have allowed eight goals in the three matches during that period. The firing was supposed to lift the Jets into the finals, yet since Clayton Zane has taken over, Newcastle has dropped from sixth place to ninth. While they are still just three points out of the top six, the Jets have won fewer games than anyone above them on the ladder.
Wellington will get a chance to continue its fine run in hosting Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium on Sunday February 16. Newcastle get the unenviable task of traveling to Brisbane to face the Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
WEL Hernandez (Huysegems) 21'
NEW Goodwin (Caravella) 26'
WEL Huysegems (Hernandez) 33'
NEW Goodwin (Gibbs) 46'
WEL Hicks (Hernandez) 71'
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti; Gallaway, Jaliens, Regan, Brillante; Zadkovich, Caravella; Goodwin (Bridges 82'), Ward (Gibbs 24'), Hoole (Pepper 75'); Taggart
Unused substitutes: Kennedy, Oxborrow
Wellington Phoenix: Moss; Muscat, Durante, Sigmund, Brindell-South (Hicks 66'); Caira, Hernandez, Lia, Ridenton (Rufer 85'); Huysegems, Boyd (Brockie 66')
Unused substitutes: Italiano, Krishna