Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond believes his team will take heart from their 1-1 draw against Wellington Phoenix.
The Jets’ record against the Phoenix – especially in Wellington – has been a poor one.
Prior to Sunday’s draw they had lost the past six matches, home and away, to Ricki Herbert’s side and had not won in Wellington since 2007.
But they came from a goal down at Westpac Stadium to snatch a point thanks to an Emile Heskey header in the 74th minute which cancelled out Louis Fenton’s first-half goal.
Van Egmond hailed his side’s resilience, especially given the Phoenix were humiliated 7-1 by Sydney last weekend and then had to deal with the fall-out of co-owner Gareth Morgan calling their fans ‘pathetic’ and ‘unsophisticated’.
“You knew there was going to be a response from the (Phoenix) players today so for us to answer that and to ensure we got something out of the game was very positive,” he said.
The Jets coach also felt it would lift confidence ahead of next month’s rearranged fixture.
Newcastle will play Wellington at Westpac Stadium on February 27 because the original date in March clashed with New Zealand’s World Cup qualifying fixtures against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.
“When we come back here we’re obviously buoyed by the performance and the result we got here,” van Egmond said. “We know we can achieve something.”
Both sides ended the match with 10 men after Sam Gallaway and Tony Lochhead were sent off for second bookable offences.
Gallaway departed in the 55th minute after tripping Tyler Boyd on the edge of the box when the Phoenix were already a goal up.
Lochhead’s dismissal, for bringing down James Virgili close to the box, paved the way for Heskey’s equaliser.
Van Egmond had no issue with referee Ben Williams’ decisions.
“From our point of view with our player, I thought it was justified as far as two yellows was concerned,” he said. “It was a bit naive, especially in the second one considering you’re on a yellow.
“I thought the same from their (the Phoenix) point of view. I think he got those two decisions pretty well right.”
Sunday’s draw has put Newcastle in fifth spot on 22 points – 10 points behind fourth-placed Adelaide and only five points above cellar dwellers Wellington – with nine rounds to go.
Van Egmond said managing the players for the run-in would be crucial to the six teams chasing the last two finals spots.
“We’ve got a few players today who were starting to get pretty tired and they’ve shown some signs over the last week or two,” he said.
“We’ll start to look at those ones and maybe use them as impact players rather than starting them. We’ve got some good depth.
“Hopefully we can limit the suspensions and limit the injuries and ensure that we have as many fit bodies for the run-in.”
He added: “Winning your home games and getting something from away games is also going to be paramount.
“If you can get a win playing away it’s close to a six-pointer. That’s where I think it’s going to be very, very important.”