A 1-ALL draw with Wellington Phoenix might not have been the victory the Jets craved, but coach Gary van Egmond believes the confidence it will create could be crucial later this season.
The Jets fought back from being 1-0 down after 20 minutes to a Louis Fenton goal to equalise through an Emile Heskey header in the 74th minute.
The result ended a losing streak in Wellington that dated back to September 9, 2007.
Did you miss the game? Catch up here through a replay of David Lowe's live blog, Streaming Jets.
The last-placed Phoenix have always been the Jets’ bogey team and had won their past six meetings.
So when Jets left back Sam Gallaway received his second card in the 55th minute for a clumsy challenge just outside the box on Phoenix winger Tyler Boyd, the dreaded hoodoo at the ‘‘Cake Tin’’ was again rearing its ugly head.
But the game turned on its head in the 72nd minute when Phoenix left back Tony Lochhead tripped Jets substitute James Virgili and was handed his second yellow.
With the game back at 10 on 10, the Jets wasted no time evening up the scoreboard when Ryan Griffiths’s ensuing free kick found Connor Chapman at the far post.
The young defender’s angled header forced goalkeeper Mark Paston to parry the ball high in the air near the goal line. Heskey, using his trademark strength, muscled his way to the ball to head in his eighth goal of the season, all from close range.
Phoenix were hammered in the media and by their fans last week after a 7-1 thrashing against Sydney FC continued a four-game losing streak.
Van Egmond said his opposition’s motivation made the task more difficult.
‘‘We have a really bad record here and on the back of Phoenix getting beaten 7-1, it was a call to arms for the Phoenix as far as the club was concerned,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘They’ve had a lot issues which have been put in the public and we knew there was going to be a response from the players today, and for us to answer that and ensure we got something out of game was very positive.’’
‘‘I thought we were a little bit slack on allowing them to get the opportunity to score their goal. But regarding the playing, and moving, and ensuring we want to keep the ball on the deck, I thought we did quite well.’’
The point moves the Jets to fifth on the ladder above Melbourne Heart.
But with the Jets due to return to Westpac Stadium on February 27 for a rescheduled midweek game, the confidence of breaking the drought in the New Zealand capital could be more important.
Jets officials were fuming that the match was moved to midweek to cater for the Phoenix’s high involvement in New Zealand’s World Cup qualifiers, as they believed it would unfairly affect their chances of winning what will be an important three points.
‘‘You get confidence from that, don’t you,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘We’ve gone four games now where we’ve been unbeaten, so we look forward to getting back home and playing in front of our members and supporters.
‘‘Firstly we have to concentrate on that game, but when we come back here we’re obviously buoyed by the result we got here. So we know we can achieve something.’’
While the trip across the Tasman was mostly positive for the Jets, the send-off and one-game suspension of Gallaway was a negative, though van Egmond backed referee Ben Williams’s decision to card the freshly re-signed 21-year-old.
‘‘I’m going to leave the referees completely alone,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve got a tough job, and at the end of the day they’ve decided to do what they’ve done.
‘‘I thought it was a case from our point of view with our player, I thought it was justified with the two yellow cards.
‘‘It’s a bit naive, especially with the second one considering you’re already on a yellow, and I thought the same with their one. I thought he got those decisions pretty well right.’’
The draw also ended the Jets’ streak of clean sheets at three games.
It took the class of Barbadian forward Paul Ifill to instigate the breach of the Jets defences when he dribbled down the left edge in the 20th minute after receiving a long ball from centre back Ben Sigmund.
Ifill then crossed into the box looking for striker Dani Sanchez. Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti stretched out to fist the ball clear but it bounced off Sanchez to Fenton, ending the Jets’ club-record 355 minutes of football without conceding a goal.
AAP reports: Ricki Herbert said his Wellington team, struggling to embed a more attacking brand of football, should have come away with three points.
‘‘It was disappointing. I thought we created a lot tonight, and I thought the momentum was good,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought we were quite efficient, I thought we dealt with things quite a lot better than we have been. We got our nose in front, and we should have gone on and won it.
‘‘I probably think we threw away two points, more than got one.’’