Ifill fires Phoenix

The Wellington Phoenix have maintained New Zealand's football's purple patch with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle in their Round 15 Hyundai A-League clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Wellington Phoenix have maintained New Zealand's football's purple patch with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle in their Round 15 Hyundai A-League clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Wellington arrived in Newcastle to be greeted by 40 degree heat but buoyed by New Zealand's qualification for the FIFA World Cup last weekend as well as some impressive form in the A-League and they grabbed the lead early in the match via striker Paul Ifill.

The Jets took control of the match midway through the first half. But despite a number of half-chances on goal they were unable to find an equaliser and the Phoenix held on doggedly to register their fourth win of the campaign.

The win lifts Wellington onto 20 points on the Hyundai A-League table and maintains their drive for the finals while the Jets slumped to their fourth loss at home from eight matches to keep them near the foot of the ladder.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was proud of his team's win particularly in light of the heatwave conditions and the psychological state of the team after the euphoria of last week's World Cup qualification of the New Zealand national team.

"If we were going to be vulnerable it would have been tonight given that half the team played in a big international last week," he said after the match.

"We've got great character, the players are at an excellent level physiologically and I thought we were never really troubled throughout the game."

After a tentative opening in the oppressive conditions it was Wellington who grabbed the opening goal in just the 13th minute. Tony Lochhead took the ball down the left flank before crossing to the near post where Ifill stretched out his right foot to poke home.

Newcastle eventually settled and started to look dangerous with Sean Rooney proving to be a headache for the Wellington defence and Newcastle skipper Matt Thompson and Korean import Jin-Hyung Song making inroads through the midfield.

The Wellington defence were up to the task however and for the most part forced Newcastle to shoot from outside the area to go into the break leading 1-0.

The Phoenix had the first chance just one minute into the second half when Bertos found space down the right before sending in a low cross for Ifill at the near post. The Barbados international struck the ball with the side of his foot only to see Jets goalkeeper Neil Young tip the ball over the crossbar in a great point-blank save.

Newcastle coach Branko Culina brought on Kaz Patafta and Ben Kantorsvki for Sean Rooney and Adam D'Apuzzo respectively while Ricki Herbert replaced Daniel with Adrian Caceras and Leo Bertos with Costa Barbarouses near the hour mark.

The Jets started to control the tempo as the match progressed with Haliti going close on two occasions as the home side searched gamely for an equaliser.

As a last throw of the dice Culina brought on Angelo Costanzo for Jobe Wheelhouse with the big defender playing up front in an attacking role while the Phoenix put former Jet Troy Hearfield on for Ifill to bolster their defence.

Song had a 20-yard shot deflected behind for a corner. From the ensuing set-piece Haliti's header forced a good low save from Mark Paston in the Phoenix goal.

Deep into injury time Fabio Vignaroli should have equalized when he had the goal at his mercy but he fired wide from close range as Wellington held on for an important away victory.

Culina was fuming with his team's performance describing it as 'flat'.

"It is disappointing but if you don't play well enough you can't expect to win games," he said.

Newcastle Jets 0 Wellington Phoenix 1 (Ifill 13)

Crowd 4,239 at EnergyAustralia Stadium.