Hamish Watson put a pre-season ankle injury behind him to lead Wellington Phoenix to a commanding win over a Capital Football Select XI on Saturday.
Watson, who was handed his first start by new head coach Darije Kalezic, put in a powerful forward display and bagged a brace as Phoenix notched their opening victory of their pre-season campaign.
Phoenix went into the game without a host of first-team players including captain Andrew Durante, Michael McGlinchey and last year’s top scorer Roy Krishna who were all away on international duty. However, new signings Daniel Mullen and Ali Abbas were given their first starts for the Phoenix in a back four that looked disciplined and organised.
Phoenix started the match well and were rewarded for their high intensity in the 11th minute when Watson cut inside two tackles and buried a left footed drive into the bottom right corner to put his side 1-0 up.
Wellington's lead was doubled straight away in the 13th minute when Adam Parkhouse tucked away a neat finish after some good build up play on the right flank by Phoenix academy graduate Sarpreet Singh.
Despite Phoenix’s strong start, the Capital Select XI didn’t sit back and continued to search for goals and could have been rewarded in the 26th minute when Callum McCowatt skipped past Mullen and unleashed a low drive that was stopped smartly by Phoenix reserve goalkeeper Keegan Smith.
However, Wellington quickly took back control of the game and were unlucky not to go 3-0 up when new signing Scott Galloway's neat one-two and cross with Singh could not be finished at the fair post by Parkhouse.
The A-League side continued to create chances and Watson almost had a second goal in the 43rd minute when he was sent through on goal by a classy Galloway through ball. Watson’s first touch took him round goalkeeper James McPeake but a moment's hesitation allowed the Capital XI defence to recover brilliantly to snuff out the chance.
Phoenix did finally get their third in the shadow of half-time when Singh cleverly spotted the keeper off his line after being put through on goal by Matt Ridenton and gently curled the ball into the far corner.
The Capital Select XI started the second half far stronger but were unable to create any clear-cut chances. They were punished in the 55th minute when Watson spotted McPeake off his line after winning the ball in midfield and chipped the goalkeeper from 45m to put the Phoenix 4-0 up.
The game then became a scrappy one with neither side able to gain full ascendency. Both teams traded triple substitutions and the game finally burst back into life in the 87th minute when Logan Rogerson drove into the Capital XI box and squared the ball to Parkhouse whose first-time effort sailed over the bar.
Phoenix will now turn their attention to their pre-season trip to Australia where they will face Central Coast Mariners, Newcastle Jets and a National Premier League side. Wellington will then play a two-legger with local side Team Wellington on 23 and 30 September, with the latter forming part of a Community Day where fans can collect their membership packs, and meet the players for an extended signing session.
Phoenix return to Westpac Stadium to kick off their A-League campaign against Adelaide United on 8 October.