Phoenix crush wasteful Heart

A sense of relief swept around Westpac Stadium as the Wellington Phoenix battled to their first home win since September with a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Melbourne Heart in Wellington on Wednesday night.

A sense of relief swept around Westpac Stadium as the Wellington Phoenix battled to their first home win since September with a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Melbourne Heart in Wellington on Wednesday night.

A Paul Ifill double and the sending off of Heart skipper Matt Thompson for a second bookable offence in the space of 11 second half minutes turned the game on its head as the Phoenix ended a run of poor performances to claim a much-needed three points.

Under fire coach Ricki Herbert rang the changes and they appeared to work, although he refused to get too carried away after an inconsistent season to-date.

"I don't know whether it's (a case of) back on track, there's a long way to go yet. But it's a good three points and I'm very pleased," he said.

"I'm delighted for the players. As I've said all week I fully back them and I've shown that again tonight."

"Just the whole performance tonight was good. I thought we created things, the quality was there and it was nice to see Paul getting on the score sheet as well."

There was a moment's silence for the Pike River miners prior to kick-off and once play got under way there was plenty of endeavour shown by both sides in the opening 45 minutes but for no reward as the match remained scoreless until just after the hour mark.

If anything it was a reshuffled Phoenix side that had the most chances in the first half but again things just did not fall for them in the attacking third.

Leo Bertos, Paul Ifill and Daniel were charged with leading the attack with Chris Greenacre dropping to the bench but it was a Vince Lia long-range screamer that flew over the bar in the seventh that set the tone for the remainder of the half.

Tim Brown, who replaced Nick Ward in midfield, and Daniel both had opportunities as the first half wore on but the Phoenix's best chance of the opening spell fell to Ifill when Thompson coughed up possession near his own box and the Phoenix forward pounced to force a save from Clint Bolton.

At the other end a re-jigged defence of Jade North, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante and Troy Hearfield, with Manny Muscat nestled just in front of them, largely kept the Heart at bay.

But in the 37th minute they were opened up when a poor Sigmund header was collected by Adrian Zahra, who threaded a superb ball into the box for Alex Terra, who replaced the rested John Aloisi up front, but he blasted over.

The second half began much as the first with Ifill getting an early chance after a good run down the left flank by Hearfield and an accurate cross in from Daniel. But again the Barbados international's shot went wide.

As he has done so many times before, Paston kept his side in the hunt with two good saves in as many minutes as the Heart went in search of a breakthrough.

First Gerald Sibon's through ball picked out Terra but his shot was smothered by the Wellington keeper then Josip Skoko found Sibon in the box but Paston at full stretch denied the big Heart forward.

And it was the Phoenix and Ifill's luck which changed for the better from the 62nd minute as they took the game away from the Heart.

A deflected cross from Lia into the box gifted Ifill his first goal since a penalty in round 11 then in the 70 minute the Heart were reduced to 10 men when Thompson was shown a second yellow for a clumsy challenge on Wellington's talisman.

Ifill doubled his side's lead four minutes later when the Heart coughed up possession in the middle of the park and Brown ran hard into the danger area, squared the ball to his team-mate who wrong-footed Aziz Behich and drove low past a diving Bolton.

Heart coach John Van't Schip conceded that spell had been the turning point for his side.

"I think until they went 1-0 up we controlled the game. We had four clear chances ... and they didn't really create anything."

"But Ifill got a deflection for his first goal and they went 1-0 up and then with Matt's red card the game changed very quickly."

"But it was a game we could have won. But you have to put away your chances and we didn't do that."