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Sep 13, 2009

Coast clear as A-League logjam tightens

Gold Coast came from behind to stay in front of the A-League on Sunday, proving the championship favourites have the ticker to go with the talent.

United conjured a last-minute equaliser through super striker Shane Smeltz to pinch a 2-2 draw with Perth Glory in Perth after they trailed 2-0 at halftime.

Looking down and out and with Perth well on top in the first 45 minutes, the Gold Coast fought back hard early in the second half and gave themselves a sniff when Bas van den Brink netted in the 52nd minute.

Then Smeltz struck for his ninth goal in six games this season, keeping United three points clear at the top of the table and showing the competition's benchmark is capable of hurting rivals in a variety of ways.

With second-placed Sydney FC becoming North Queensland Fury's first scalp of the season in a 1-0 result on Saturday night, the rest of the A-League is a logjam.

Just five points separate the nine other sides from second to last.

Rooted in the bottom half of the table are defending champions Melbourne Victory, who only managed a lack-lustre 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix on an Etihad Stadium surface coach Ernie Merrick labelled "a disgrace"

The Victory have just six points from their six matches and no wins from four home games, though they are only a win off third place such is the congestion of the competition.

Merrick lamented his side's inability to gel in the final third of the pitch, as they struggled to create clear-cut chances.

The transfer of striker Danny Allsopp to the Middle East, the loss of influential midfielder Billy Celeski to a long-term knee injury and skipper Kevin Muscat's continued injury absence left the Victory looking and playing like strangers rather than teammates.

"We've lost the spine of the team with Danny Allsopp, Billy Celeski and Kevin Muscat, but I think we've got the players to make up for that," Merrick said.

"It's a case of them all gelling together and getting used to each other.

"It was an inconsistent performance."

In other matches, Brisbane Roar thumped Newcastle Jets 3-0 away and Adelaide United bounced back to form with a 1-0 win over third-placed Central Coast at Hindmarsh Stadium.

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