Analysis: Phoenix’s line-in-the-sand moment?

It might go down as Wellington Phoenix’s line-in-the-sand moment for this season.

Saturday’s gritty 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium – often a graveyard for the Kiwi club – was more than just about the priceless three Hyundai A-League competition points and a much-needed lifeline to their finals hopes. 

Phoenix keep touch with top six after stunning Roar

For a club that has too often underachieved in the Hyundai A-League – and even had to fight for their existence at times – the determined and courageous win showed unity. 

Wellington Phoenix.

If we’re being honest, it’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Phoenix.

After missing the top six in 2015/16, this campaign looked like following a similar path, cruelled by inconsistent performances both by individuals and the team.

Coach Ernie Merrick left before the midway point of the season, thrusting rookie coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre into the hot-seat, adding to the tumult. 

Despite an initial upturn in fortunes, Phoenix soon reverted back to what we had seen for much of the campaign. Poor performances and disappointing results.

Their stuttering season reached a new low in Round 20 as they slumped to a 5-1 drubbing in front of their own fans at the hands of Melbourne City.

And then to cap it all off in the aftermath of the City drubbing, three players – Roly Bonevacia, Tom Doyle and Ryan Lowry – were found guilty of “breaching team protocols”.

It was a situation that threatened to undermine the team and derail the last part of their season. 

Phoenix officials could have swept it under the carpet, especially as two of the players – Bonevacia and Doyle – are starting XI players.

But the club’s response was swift and direct, dropping all three for the tricky trip to Brisbane to play the in-form Roar.

As co-coach Buckingham explained in the lead-up to the match. 

“It’s a professional football club, a professional team, a professional staff and we’ve got fans paying good money to come watch this team and support his club, so it’s important that every single player recognises their own responsibilities to do their job.

Tom Doyle

‘‘It’s just the standards we set as staff that we expect to be followed at this club and those three haven’t met those standards.”

The message was clear. Get on board with the club’s vision and philosophy or else.

And the response from the team on Saturday afternoon could be the turning point, not only for Wellington’s season, but also their future.

Despite losing experienced Italian defender Marco Rossi to injury in the first half, the Nix dug-in and secured just their second win at Suncorp Stadium from 15 visits.

Wellington Phoenix striker Roy Krishna scored the second goal in his side's 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar.

Goals either side of the break to Shane Smeltz and Roy Krishna – the latter a slick 22-pass team goal – secured the 2-1 result and makes for a massive final six weeks of the regular season.

Does it guarantee they’ll make the Hyundai A-League Finals Series this season? No.

It doesn’t even ensure they’ll be able to back it up with another win in the Distance Derby against Perth Glory next weekend.

But there’s now a sense they could be on the right track again across the ditch.