Wellington Phoenix captain Dylan Fox, right, rising high for a header. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Early Sarpreet Singh goal does the job for visitors

FOOTBALL

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

An early goal was enough for the Wellington Phoenix to sneak past Wairarapa United 1-0 at Memorial Park last night.

The reopening of the Sir Brian Lochore Stand obviously had a positive effect, with a large crowd of more than 1000 people making the trip to the park for the match.

One of the features was the way the players interacted with the hundreds of children at the ground, with most of the youngsters taking the chance to go on the field and score a goal at half-time.

For the Phoenix, the match was a pre-season clash ahead of their A-League campaign, and they brought a youthful squad with a mixture of contracted players, academy players, and trialists.

One of those trialists was United’s Callan Elliot, who was given the opportunity to start against his club team.

The Phoenix started the match strongly and dominated the early exchanges as United struggled to make inroads.

It didn’t take long for the Phoenix to make an early statement, as 19-year-old Sarpreet Singh finished off a strong attack down the left side.

Singh worked his way into the box and drilled the ball into the back of the net past United goalkeeper Scott Morris.

United slowly worked their way into the match as more passes began to stick, but they had to work hard for every metre against an organised Phoenix defence.

Phoenix captain Dylan Fox was in fine form at the back, organising the defence and expertly controlling the tempo of the match.

Hamish Watson – a former Phoenix player and double goal scorer in Saturday’s Chatham Cup win over Stop Out Sports Club – looked the most likely of the United players to create something on attack, while Azariah Soromon and Brian Kaltack were in the thick of the action.

Elliot had a chance to get his name on the scoresheet for the Phoenix in the 23rd minute, but his shot was saved by Morris.

The Phoenix continued to press for the rest of the half, while United didn’t create any clear-cut chances.

United started positively in the second half, with a freekick from captain Cam Lindsay headed towards goal by Daniel Allan.

It didn’t have enough power or accuracy to trouble the Phoenix goalkeeper, but it was a sign United were becoming more comfortable in the match.

The home team continued to probe in search of an equalising goal, and a cross from Taylor Hall-Jones very nearly ended up in the back of the net when Watson rose for a header.

Unfortunately for United, it crashed into the side netting of the goal.

The Phoenix had a chance to extend their lead in the 67th minute when Liberato Cacace was ruled to have been brought down in the box.

Louis Fenton stepped up to take the penalty, but Morris was up to the task and made a spectacular save with a dive to his left.

The teams played out a stalemate for the rest of the match as neither side could find their finishing touch.