Phoenix late blow stuns United
THE Wellington Phoenix shook a huge monkey off their back with their first away win of the season as they saw off cellar-dwellers Gold Coast United last night.
The game was played in warm, sticky conditions on a sometimes slippery Skilled Park pitch, and there was no shortage of action at both ends.
Match-winner Tim Brown later conceded Gold Coast deserved a draw, but he happily took the points - their fourth of the Hyundai A-League season at the Gold Coast ground after a 1-1 draw in the opening round.
Even before a ball had been kicked, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert showed his hand by ringing the changes.
Out went Leo Bertos for the first time this season, his wide midfield role taken by Nick Ward.
Bertos was joined on the bench by Daniel, who had started in eight of the 16 games and played another five off the bench. He gave way to Paul Ifill who was charged with leading the attacking line, but rarely showed out.
In goal Mark Paston won back his place after Tony Warner had started the previous 15 games. Paston pulled of a couple of outstanding saves as the Phoenix claimed just their third clean sheet of the season.
Alex Smith was also given a start in midfield in place of injured Vince Lia. Smith did well enough but again the Phoenix midfield struggled to gain and dominance over the Gold Coast.
Ben Halloran's pace coupled with Peter Jungschlager's ability to take on defenders to put the Phoenix goal under pressure, created plenty of chances for the home side.
But for Paston, United could have gone to the break ahead.
Just as easily, though, the Phoenix could have been a couple of goals to the good in the opening three minutes as the Gold Coast defence was under real pressure.
In a reversal of the first half, Gold Coast dominated the opening minutes of the second, denied only by the post and a last ditch Manny Muscat goal-line clearance.
The frenetic pace continued, with both teams creating chances but not the finish, until that slice of Brown magic.
Awarded a long-range freekick, Daniel, on for Smith in the 82nd minute, floated the ball in.
Timing his run to perfection, Brown got away from his marker to meet the ball on the fly and power his header down and inside the near post.
The Phoenix meet Newcastle Jets on Friday night in the second leg of their week-long sojourn.