The Waine Train is back in service.
Ten days after missing a penalty against Central Coast Mariners in the A-League Men, young striker Ben Waine scored with their only shot on target to send Wellington Phoenix through to the last 16 of the FFA Cup with a narrow 1-0 win over Western United at GMBHA Stadium in Geelong on Tuesday.
The Phoenix will now play NPL club Avondale in the round of 16 in Melbourne next Tuesday, with the winner of that fixture to meet reigning A-League Men champions Melbourne City in the tournament quarterfinal.
“We scored a very good goal, I believe, and we defended quite well as well,” coach Ufuk Talay said post-match.
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“I think it was an overall solid performance from the young boys.”
Clearly prioritising the league during a busy run of fixtures, Talay left key men including captain Alex Rufer and Gary Hooper back in Sydney and handed debuts to Luka Prso, Oskar van Hattum, Finn Surman and Kurtis Mogg, while Nicholas Pennington and Matthew Bozinovski were also given their first starts.
Van Hattum and Surman only joined the Phoenix in Australia last week but acquitted themselves well.
“It was a great opportunity to give some minutes to players who haven’t played during the season and also an opportunity for the young boys to go out there and showcase what they can do,” Talay said.
After making as many as eight changes to the team that lost to Western Sydney Wanderers in controversial fashion last week, the Phoenix struggled to find their rhythm and regularly misplaced passes.
But after surviving a nervous moment where captain Oli Sail was caught outside his box as Dylan Pierias approached, it was the young Nix who hit the lead when Waine rose high to meet a cross from Louis Fenton in the 35th minute.
“It was a great goal, exactly what we’ve worked on with the patterns, and they’ve played through, found the pocket, got Louis over the top and it’s a good delivery and a great finish, and it’s always good for our strikers to score goals to build that confidence.
“Goals always give confidence to your players, especially your strikers up front, but that penalty miss has been a long time gone for him, it’s something young players learn from, but they have to move on very quickly.”
Waine had a chance to double the Phoenix’s lead when he was played through by Clayton Lewis early in the second half but defender Ben Collins got a toe to the ball and put it out for a corner before Waine could get a shot away.
Tuesday’s win was just the Phoenix’s second in the FFA Cup after beating Central Coast Mariners at the same stage in 2015.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Ben Waine 35’) Western United 0