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Jan 29, 2012

Phoenix grab A-League ladder second spot

The A-League team that collected just one win from the first seven matches this season is fast becoming Central Coast's biggest premiership threat.

Wellington's resurgence gained momentum on Sunday, with second spot on the ladder the reward for a fluent 3-1 win over Melbourne Heart.

The Mariners still hold a 10-point buffer at the top of the A-League ladder and also have a game in hand after Friday night's clash with Gold Coast was postponed due to wet weather.

As such it's unlikely the Phoenix will bridge that gap before the finals start on the last weekend of March.

However, victory on the weekend was preceded by the side's first two away wins for the season.

And they've already proven plenty of doubters wrong - including their inaugural captain.

"For the first time I really didn't think the Phoenix were going to do much this season," Ross Aloisi told Fox Sports.

"But they've been so hard to beat at home ... they've just got a team of hard workers."

It is the first time a New Zealand-based side has occupied second spot on the ladder - in either the A-League or the former National Soccer League.

The fashion in which Wellington achieved this is almost as remarkable.

After the opening seven rounds of the 2011/12 season, the Phoenix were devoid of confidence, depleted by injury, and didn't have the funds to do anything about it.

The return from injury of Paul Ifill, who netted the opening goal on the weekend, has helped but there were no stars parachuted in to solve the crisis.

Instead coach Ricki Herbert extracted every ounce of potential from a list many predicted to be at the foot of the table this season.

"They work hard off the ball. They're very physical and very, very hard to beat," Aloisi said.

It was Brisbane Roar's shock 1-0 loss at home to Newcastle that opened the door for Wellington to snatch second spot on the ladder.

Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond was thrilled with how his side scraped home for their first away win in over a year, the result coming after Wednesday's 1-1 draw in Adelaide.

"Obviously it was going to be tough to back up. We knew that, and hence that's the way we played tactically," he said.

"To come away with a clean sheet against Brisbane is no mean feat ... we're looking forward to Sydney next week."

Sydney FC's season remains in the balance after Thursday's 2-2 draw with the Victory in Melbourne.

Perth Glory have moved to just one point behind third-placed Brisbane on the A-League ladder after the 3-0 win in Adelaide.

Perth defender Bas van den Brink had mixed feelings after his side's unimpressive start to the match.

"We just got away with murder today," van den Brink told Fox Sports.

"Fortunately we got away with it, had a bit of luck and turned it around.

"It's looking good now but we have to stay normal and just think about the next game. Every game is going to be tough."

With the Roar facing a tricky trip to the Central Coast on Saturday, and Perth hosting Gold Coast United next Monday, the Glory are in the box seat to rise further up the ladder next week.

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