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Jan 30, 2011

Victory all but secure finals spot

After the most tumultuous week in the club's history, Melbourne Victory have all but secured an A-League finals place with a second win in as many matches as Newcastle Jets' hopes of making the top six took a hit.

Two superb Danny Allsopp goals steered the fifth-placed Victory to a 2-0 win over fourth-placed Gold Coast United at AAMI Park on Sunday.

But the Jets stumbled 1-0 in New Zealand to fellow top six aspirants Wellington Phoenix, who now sit sixth.

While both Melbourne Heart (seventh) and Newcastle (eighth) could still force their way into the top six, it is unlikely to be at the Victory's expense.

The Victory are now on 40 points, five points clear of Wellington and seven clear of the Heart and are now some chance of overtaking Gold Coast and securing a home final.

United are just two points ahead of the Victory, though the Queensland side have two matches in hand.

Delighted Victory coach Ernie Merrick praised the character of his side to put aside a week dominated by skipper Kevin Muscat's now-infamous tackle and suspension to take maximum points from their two matches since.

The Victory also beat North Queensland midweek, but have also had their club culture and tactics questioned and pilloried in the wake of the Muscat ban.

"The boys have pulled together really well and that's the good thing about the culture at this club - when it counts everyone works for each other and that's the sort of result you get," Merrick said.

"We played well against the Fury and got the points, and we played far better today.

"These things happen at clubs but you've got to put it behind you and turn out that type of performance, because that alone makes a big statement."

With temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s, Allsopp lit up the match on 28 minutes with a 20-metre run and powerful low shot to put his side a goal up.

Then he produced an even better effort in the 56th minute, latching on to a lofted ball from Diogo Ferreira.

With his back to goal, he turned Gold Coast defender John Curtis, then curved a left-footed shot past United keeper Glen Moss to put the issue beyond doubt.

Wellington produced a gem of a goal to win their match at Westpac Stadium, with winger Marco Rojas setting up Dylan Macallister with sheer speed.

Rojas picked up the ball inside his own half, burned off the defence with a 50-metre run down the right, before delivering a pinpoint cross for Macallister to finish in style.

The Phoenix's win has nearly shut the door on Sydney FC's slim chances to make the top six after their unbeaten streak of five matches - the latest a 2-0 win over Perth Glory in Perth on Saturday night.

Central Coast Mariners shored up their claims for second spot and a finals double chance with an important 2-1 win over third-placed Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday night.

The Mariners are now four points clear of Adelaide.

But ladder leaders Brisbane Roar have all but sealed the Premiers' Plate with a 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart on Friday night, which set an Australian domestic soccer club record 23 games without defeat.

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