Phoenix secure fourth place

A 3-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners has earned the Wellington Phoenix a home Hyundai A-League minor semi-final next Sunday.

A 3-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners has earned the Wellington Phoenix a home Hyundai A-League minor semi-final next Sunday.

Two goals in as many minutes by Paul Ifill sealed the win at Westpac Stadium after a Tim Brown header had given the home side a 1-0 lead at the break.

"We did what we had to do tonight and did it pretty well," delighted Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said.

"I think there's always that vulnerability with a team that's out of it and wants to spoil the party. I didn't sense that tonight. It was great. I thought the boys were up for it and while it was in the balance and drifting there for a while when we were 1-0 up I don't think there was any real pressure to be too concerned about."

"Obviously the second and third goal have taken it away and it was pretty comprehensive in the end."

The Phoenix were worthy of their win as they dominated proceedings from start to finish in front of a season's best crowd at Westpac Stadium of 14,318.

Prior to the match Ricki Herbert had promised an attacking performance from his side and it delivered with Central Coast unable to contain dangerman Ifill, who brought his tally for the season to a dozen.

When Central Coast did have the ball it was harried into making mistakes and Liam Reddy was barely called into action in the opening 45 minutes.

His opposite number Danny Vukovic was not so fortunate as Wellington mounted wave after wave of attack.

Ifill forced a save from the Mariners shot-stopper in the seventh minute and it wasn't long before the pressure brought reward.

Vince Lia threaded a superb ball through to Manny Muscat who dragged the ball back and Brown headed home his seventh of the season to break the deadlock on 14 minutes.

The Phoenix should have been two-up not long after when Ifill picked out Leo Bertos, who was handed his first start since Round 24 against Perth, but after doing all the hard work and rounding the keeper he tried to square the ball back and it was cleared by Andrew Clark.

Ifill showed his class again with some neat footwork leaving Shane Huke in his wake but the English import fired his long-range effort wide.

Andrew Durante then saw his header fly just over the bar and must be wondering if he is every going to break his duck in the Hyundai A-league.

Matt Simon had a couple of attempts late in the first half, but a header went well wide and then he fired one past the right-hand upright after a nice lay-off by Clark.

Central Coast was lucky not to concede a penalty early in the second stanza after Ifill made a strong run in the box, beating Clark and Alex Wilkinson before being bundled over by Nigel Boogaard. But referee Chris Beath waved play on and the Mariners countered strongly only for Simon to send his effort just over the bar then volley another attempt straight at Reddy.

Vukovic and Clark then combined to deny Ifill again on 53 minutes after the workaholic forward had beaten Bradley Porter to unleash a stinging shot which the Mariners keeper parried to his defender who headed it clear.

The match lost some of its shape as both coaches turned to their benches with Dylan Macallister brought on for Huke, Bernie Ibini-Isei replacing Mathew Lewis and Nick Fitzgerald on for Nikas Panagiotis.

Herbert brought on livewire Adrian Caceres for Muscat and with 13 minutes to go introduced Daniel into the fray for Bertos.

The Brazilian had an immediate impact as a poorly taken freekick near the Phoenix box by Clark allowed the attacking midfielder to break down the left flank.

He swung the ball into the box for the hard-running Caceres but the ball ricocheted off two Mariners defenders, then Chris Greenacre's volley came off Wilkinson and Ifill slotted it home.

It was 3-0 a minute later when Caceres picked out Ifill who twisted and netted his 12th of the season.

Eugene Dadi came on for the last 10 minutes but it was Ifill who looked the most likely to score again.

Into stoppage time it was only the foot of Vukovic that denied the Englishman a hat-trick and Caceres could easily have made it four but blasted the ball over from close range.

It was a disappointing finish for Lawrie McKinna in his final match as Mariners coach.

"We came here with an under-strength team and we believed we could upset the Phoenix's party,” he said.

"But they dominated the first 20 minutes and we had to change our shape a bit to counteract that."

"We did that and slowly we held our own in the first half and probably holding our own in the second half."

"We felt as though we could get something even though we didn't have a lot of shots. But a couple of crucial decisions don't go your way and all of a sudden you're down 2-0 and the free-kick caught us sleeping, so not a great way to finish."

Wellington Phoenix 3 (Brown 14, Ifill 78, 80). Central Coast 0 @ Westpac Stadium, 12/02/10. Crowd: 14,318