Durante: Phoenix focused on A-League success

After good performances against West Ham and Newcastle United the key now for the Wellington Phoenix will be to translate that form into A-League success, says skipper Andrew Durante.

The Phoenix backed up their 2-1 victory over the Hammers in midweek with a 1-0 defeat to the Magpies on Saturday evening.

But the A-League side matched their more illustrious opponents at Westpac Stadium and were unlucky not to come away with a draw.

Striker Jeremy Brockie was denied twice by some smart goalkeeping from Rob Elliot, while All Whites keeper Glen Moss made a couple of crucial saves to keep the Phoenix in the hunt.

In the end it was a 41st minute header from Newcastle forward Yoan Gouffran that eventually split the two teams.

“We’ve set a benchmark now that we can compete against good teams and play really good football,” Durante said. “It will be really disappointing if we left it all in these two pre-season games and started the season slowly.

“We had a tough season last year and getting in training early, having these games and getting our squad together nice and early is going to reap rewards.

“If we continue to play how we’ve played over the last two games it could be a very exciting season.”

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick believed his side’s performance on Saturday had been better than in the win against West Ham.

“We continually built from the back. We kept possession really well and we created goal-scoring chances up front,” he enthused.

“It was one of those nights the ball wouldn’t go in the net. But our football today was a step up from (West Ham) against a very slick outfit.

“Newcastle deserved to win but we pretty well matched them for most of the game.”

Few fans would have given the Phoenix, who finished ninth in the A-League last season, much chance against Premier League opposition and even Durante admitted the results had probably exceeded even the players’ expectations.

“Ernie said to us you’ll be surprised how good you are when you come up against these teams,” revealed the skipper. “The step up is obviously a big one and it (the results) probably did exceed our expectations. But we did believe we could put on a good show.”

The Phoenix face Adelaide United in the FFA Cup early next month.

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