A stoppage-time free kick from Jason Hicks rescued a 2-2 draw for Wellington Phoenix against Newcastle Jets in a tense A-League encounter at the Hutt Recreation Ground on Sunday.
The fourth-ranked Phoenix looked to have wasted too many opportunities as the ninth-placed Jets scored twice in the opening 20 minutes and threatened to pick up just their second win of the season.
The hard-tackling Jets racked up the fouls, committing 25 to Wellington’s 11, and had defender Ben Kantarovsk sent off for a second yellow card in the 86th minute.
Both the Jets’ goals came from set pieces.
The first came from an 11th-minute Kije Lee corner, Manny Muscat’s attempt at a clearing header deflecting onto Roly Bonevacia and past goalkeeper Glen Moss for an own goal.
Seven minutes later, Scott Neville met Andrew Hoole’s corner at the far post and headed home.
The Jets have been in turmoil recently, sacking skipper Kew Jaliens, David Carney, Adrian Madas, Joel Griffiths and Billy Celeski.
But boosted by the two-goal lead, they dug in and defended grimly, aided by some patchy Phoenix crossing.
The Jets almost added a third when Edson Montano’s header ricocheted off the post after quick work down the left from Lee. Sam Gallagher’s nicely timed cross stretched the Phoenix on the counter-attack.
Little changed after the restart, the Phoenix continuing to create chances but unable to find the killer finish – until the 68th minute.
Quick work from Ben Sigmund and Nathan Burns set up Roy Krishna to toe the ball home on the far post.
Newcastle’s scrambling defence then held until Hicks curled the late free kick high into the right hand corner.