Phoenix finals-bound

Wellington Phoenix have all but guaranteed themselves a place in the Hyundai A-League playoffs with a scrappy 1-0 win against Adelaide in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Wellington Phoenix have all but guaranteed themselves a place in the Hyundai A-League playoffs with a scrappy 1-0 win against Adelaide in Christchurch on Saturday night.

A record 19,258 fans packed into the newly revamped AMI Stadium as a first-half goal from Jon McKain - his second in four matches - sealed the vital three points for Ricki Herbert's men.

Adelaide battled hard and probably should have earned a point given the number of chances it created from set pieces.

But a combination of good goalkeeping from Liam Reddy and wayward finishing by the depleted Reds meant they left New Zealand empty-handed.

"I didn't think we deserved to lose," said Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar. "It was one of those games. I thought we had a few good chances we could have scored with."

"We dominated the first 20 minutes. They got their first corner and the ball just bounced for McKain and he put it away."

"We put in a pretty good effort to night. I certainly don't think we should have lost that game."

Adelaide, minus a host of regulars through injury and without striker Lloyd Owusu who is trialling at a Chinese Super League club, started strongly and could have been two goals up inside the first 10 minutes had its execution in the final third been better.

From the first corner of the game Lucas Pantelis was left totally unmarked in the box but Scott Jamieson's ball in floated beyond the diminutive midfielder and was cleared.

The Phoenix, who were exposed time and time again during the first half from the corner set-piece, then allowed Daniel Mullen a free header but he nodded it wide.

Wellington's first real chance came in the 14th minute when Troy Hearfield got around Pantelis and slid the ball into the six-yard box but Tim Brown couldn't connect and Adelaide countered smartly.

Mathew Leckie, though, could not make his final pass count and Manny Muscat blasted the ball behind for yet another Adelaide corner which ultimately proved fruitless for the visitors.

Having soaked up the pressure and seen Paul Ifill booked for a foul on Jamieson, the Phoenix almost scored as Adrian Caceres unleashed a fierce strike which Eugene Galekovic just tipped over the bar.

But the bumper crowd was soon on its feet as Caceres' corner rebounded off the back of Mullen and McKain's left-footed drive flew past the despairing Reds goalkeeper to edge the home side in front.

Adelaide, which had Adam Hughes and Robert Cornthwaite booked in the first half, squandered several chances to equalise before the break.

The Reds won several corners in quick succession, none of which the Phoenix defence dealt with.

A superb floated ball in by Pantelis saw Mullen rise above Tony Lochhead - back after two games out with a groin problem - and force Reddy into action.

Then Reddy was called to bail out his defence again when Cornthwaite and Mullen combined to set up a header for Travis Dodd which the Phoenix keeper again tipped over the bar. Cornthwaite then headed just over.

Wellington started the second half brightly but Ifill couldn't get on the end of a through ball from Eugene Dadi that flew across the face of goal, then the Englishman fired another shot past the upright.

Caceres' effort a few minutes later was also just inches past the right-hand post.

Chances thereafter for either side were few and far between until the final 10 minutes.

A great ball from the byline by substitute Leo Bertos should have been put away but Ifill couldn't reach it and Chris Greenacre fired his shot straight at Galekovic.

In the closing minutes Daniel fired in another perfectly-weighted cross for Bertos but he also fired it straight at the Reds keeper.

In a tense three minutes of stoppage time only the woodwork and Reddy's excellent reflexes ensured Wellington held on for the three points as Leckie's volley was only just tipped behind, then youngster Francesco Monterosso saw his effort just shave the post in a dramatic finish to an otherwise stop-start game.

After back-to-back losses against Perth and Melbourne, Wellington coach Ricki Herbert was delighted with how his side had bounced back and cemented its position in the top six.

"I'm just really proud. What more could we ask for coming off the back of six (goals) against and in front of 19,200 people you have to deliver don't you?," he said. "I'm really proud, really proud."