The Wellington Phoenix did themselves a major favour on Saturday in the battle to avoid the ASB Premiership wooden spoon, claiming a 4-3 victory over Southern United at David Farrington Park.
A first half hat-trick from New Zealand U-17 international James McGarry combined with a 37th minute Cherbel Khouchaba strike gave the Phoenix a 4-1 halftime advantage after Southern’s Sam French had struck a 12th minute equaliser.
The visitors did their best to draw level in the second half, substitute Alex Williams making it 3-2 three minutes after the restart before French struck his second of the game in the dying stages to provide the final score line.
The result sees the seventh-placed Phoenix side move to seven points after their second win of the season, four points clear of Southern with two rounds remaining.
McGarry gave the hosts a fast start, putting the Phoenix ahead in just the second minute, scoring after Southern ‘keeper Tom Batty saved his initial effort.
Ten minutes later Southern were level after French slotted home having broken clear behind the Phoenix defensive unit – which included Ben Sigmund for the first 45 minutes – playing his first action in a number of weeks on the comeback from injury.
33' GOAL' McGarry grabs a hattrick after he beats his man and curls his shot inside the left post. 3-1 #WPvSU
— Wellington Phoenix (@WgtnPhoenixFC) February 13, 2016
Just after the 20 minute mark, McGarry had his team back in front, calmly finishing off after being played in on goal by international age group team mate Logan Rogerson.
A further 10 minutes elapsed before McGarry completed his hat-trick by curling the ball home inside the left hand upright and the Phoenix were 4-1 to the good when Khouchaba tapped in at the back post following good work in the lead up from Rogerson.
Just before the halftime whistle Sigmund had a chance to score on his return to action but after Rogerson’s corner, his shot was cleared off the line.
Three minutes after the restart, substitute Williams pulled a goal back for Southern and the visitors made good on coach Mike Fridge’s pre-match promise to go at their opponents as Phoenix ‘keeper Oliver Sail did well to save an Andrew Ridden header and a Seamus Ryder volley in quick succession to preserve his side’s lead with 20 minutes to go.
Those contributions proved key after McGarry saw his 86th minute free kick rattle the Southern crossbar before play went up the other end and French struck his second of the day when he headed home from close range after Sail had tipped a shot onto the crossbar.
The ASB Premiership 12th round continues on Sunday with Hawke’s Bay hosting WaiBOP United at 3pm and Canterbury United entertaining Auckland City FC in the televised match at 4.35pm on SKY Sport.
ASB Premiership 2015-16 – Round 12
Saturday 13 February
Wellington Phoenix 4-3 Southern United (half: 4-1)
WP: James McGarry 2’, 22’, 33’, Cherbel Khouchaba 37’
SU: Sam French 11’, 87’, Alex Williams 48’