NZ players keep Herbert smiling

WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has not had much to cheer about thus far in the Hyundai A-League season but wearing his other cap as All Whites boss, he must be encouraged by what he has seen from some of his internationals in other teams.

None more so than Newcastle Jets striker Jeremy Brockie.

Something of a footballing nomad since he started his senior career in his hometown of Nelson in 2003, Brockie, 24, who also played for the New Zealand Knights (in 2005-06) has bounced back to his best form this season.

After stints with other A-League franchises, Sydney FC and the now-defunct North Queensland Fury (where he missed a large chunk of the 2009-10 season after breaking his leg), Brockie signed with Newcastle Jets at the start of last season.

He played 14 matches (three off the bench) and has lined up in all five matches this season.

Always regarded as a player with the ability to turn a game, Brockie was at his best on Saturday night.

Two expertly-taken goals just a minute apart early in the match sealed a surprise 2-0 home win over previously high-flying Perth Glory for whom Shane Smeltz, the more high-profile Kiwi striker was expected to shine.

Instead, Brockie stole the show and helped the Jets to leapfrog the Glory into second place.

New Jets coach Gary van Egmond believes his team is starting to adapt to his plans after that impressive win at Ausgrid Stadium.

The Jets played a high pressing game, where the front-line strikers harried the Glory defensive line and midfielders. The tactic worked as the Perth side appeared rushed and ineffective in playing the ball out of their own territory.

"We spoke about it before the game that the best way to nullify Mehmet, Smeltz and Travis (Dodd) was not to give them the service," said van Egmond. "The way you do that is by pressuring high up the park and limiting the decision time of the central midfielders and defenders. Then we can pick up the ball and capitalise on it. The boys executed that very well."

In the most dramatic fifth-round clash, Melbourne Victory, at home to leaders Brisbane Roar, played the last 54 minutes with only nine players after having goalkeeper Ante Covic sent off after two minutes and Matthew Foschini 34 minutes later.

Before that both teams had scored twice with both having taken the lead.

Henrique gave the Roar the lead with his fifth-minute penalty, Archie Thompson then netted in the ninth and 20th minutes for the Victory before Thomas Broich, in the 27th minute made it 2-2.

Melbourne will now take a depleted side to the Central Coast on Saturday, while Herbert faces the biggest challenge of all in taking the Phoenix to face a Brisbane team.



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