Phoenix claim place in play-off

Wellington Phoenix have booked themselves a return to Hindmarsh Stadium and a date with Adelaide United in next Friday's Hyundai A-League finals series after defeating North Queensland Fury 3-1.

Wellington Phoenix have booked themselves a return to Hindmarsh Stadium and a date with Adelaide United in next Friday's Hyundai A-League finals series after defeating North Queensland Fury 3-1.

Needing just a point from the last match of the regular season to secure the sixth and final play-offs spot ahead of Newcastle Jets, Wellington did it with relative ease against a team that has not won a match since the middle of December.

Chris Greenacre got the opener in the seventh minute and Dylan Macallister doubled the lead four minutes later but it was the penalty by goalkeeper Danny Vukovic - in his final home game for the Phoenix - that got the biggest cheer from the 12,718 crowd in the 93rd minute and sealed the win in dramatic fashion.

Brett Studman's goal in the 66th minute had given the Fury some hope of a comeback. But when he pulled back substitute Mirjan Pavlovic in the box in the dying stages of the match he went from hero to villain as referee Peter O'Leary had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and showing Studman a straight red card.

Vukovic also left no one in doubt he wanted to take the spot kick.

"I went straight over to (coach) Ricki (Herbert). I'm not sure what he said but I didn't really care what he was going to say to be fair," said the keeper with a grin.

"I knew it was the last kick of the game and there's probably no more perfect way for a goalkeeper to score a goal than with the last kick of the game."

"There were probably four or five boys putting their hand up. But once they saw me up there they were happy to give it to me."

Fury were without skipper Ufuk Talay in what would have been his last A-League match before retiring and although they toiled hard they never really looked like winning, even after Studman's goal.

The Phoenix defence, bolstered by the return of Ben Sigmund and Manny Muscat from suspension, looked solid enough but will face a much sterner challenge against Adelaide next week.

After conceding early goals the Fury had two good chances in the first half that fell to Chris Grossman and David Williams.

But Grossman's weak shot was easily gathered by Vukovic, while Williams put his effort wide from close range.

Marco Rojas, as ever, played his part as the visitors were forced to soak up wave after wave of pressure.

It was his perfectly weighted through ball that split the Fury defence that allowed Greenacre to coolly slot home his eighth of the season to overtake Paul Ifill as the Phoenix's leading goal-scorer this campaign.

Macallister had Sigmund, and the linesman, to thank for his goal in the 11th minute.

The big striker appeared to be offside when he chested down Sigmund's long ball but wasn't flagged and then chipped over the unfortunate Sebastian Usai, who started in place of the suspended Justin Pasfield.

Macallister had another good chance in the 24th minute but headed straight at the keeper.

After the early goals the game lost some of its shape and turned scrappy as the two teams turned over possession far too easily.

The goal-scoring opportunities also dried up and the Phoenix had to settle for a 2-0 lead at the break.

North Queensland coach Franz Straka brought Adam Casey off at half-time and replaced him with Lorenzo Sipi but it made little difference with Rojas easily getting past the stocky defender and causing havoc down the left flank.

He hit the side-netting a couple of minutes after the re-start but it was his deliveries into the box that caused the Fury the most difficulties. The Phoenix could have been 4-0 up had Sigmund been able to convert.

Instead it was Phoenix keeper Vukovic who found himself picking the ball up out of his net after Studman headed home a Bradley McDonald corner to give the Fury a glimmer of hope.

The Phoenix had several of opportunities to close out the match in the final 20 minutes - particularly as Usai started living dangerously by coming well off his line.

Tim Brown had a penalty shout waved away after he went down under a challenge from Jason Spagnuolo in the box.

Then Greenacre couldn't get his long-range effort past the Fury keeper who was well outside the six yard box when he punched the shot away.

Macallister's nudge from close range was also easily gathered by Usai but he stood no chance when his opposite number stepped up to drive home from the spot.