Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert left Shepparton on Friday night pleased with his players’ reactions in a 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at Deakin Reserve.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert left Shepparton on Friday night pleased with his players- reactions in a 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at Deakin Reserve.
The at-times scrappy pre-season encounter gave both coaches a chance to assess their players- progress, along with an opportunity to see how trialists competed against Hyundai A-League opposition.
As had been the case against Brisbane Roar in Dunedin the previous week, defensive errors cost the Phoenix with Jason Hoffman and David Williams profiting through goals in the 27th and 54th minutes.
This time however the Phoenix stormed back into the game, playing some neat football on a very bumpy pitch, as Spanish trialist Dani Sanchez netted in the 63rd minute and Leo Bertos grabbed an equaliser from a long range free-kick 14 minutes later.
Buoyed by the goals, the Phoenix finished strongly and twice went close to scoring the winning goal.
The overall performance left Herbert feeling satisfied with what he and his team had got out of the trip.
“A trip across the Tasman is important at this time of the year as it gets us back into the mode of travelling and training,” Herbert said.
“I said going into the game it was a chance to get players on the park. We rested some players who had little niggles and there were some we didn-t need to use as they have been playing.
“The goals we conceded were very disappointing but the response from our players was very good.
“The first goal was well constructed and well taken by Dani.
“A strong focus for me was looking at our trialists. We brought Dani on for the second half and changed our shape a bit.
“He was good in the front third of the pitch, he took his goal well and linked up well. He certainly hasn-t done his chances any harm.”
Herbert also had words of encouragement for Victorian teenage defender Bryan Bran who had a solid game alongside captain Andrew Durante.
“It was always going to be a test for Bryan,” Herbert said.
“When a 19-year-old comes in at this level there is always going to be some anxiety and a tendency to be tentative but Bryan grew into the game.
“There were things he did that he will know he could have done better, and there were things he did very well. Both Bryan and Dani produced comprehensive performances.”
Herbert said the way his team bounced back from the setbacks, and finished so strongly, was the most pleasing aspect of the night.
“It shows we are a step closer physically to where we need to be on October 9 (the opening league game against Gold Coast),” he said.