A-League: Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Taay pleased to secure finals berth

Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay is pleased his side have secured a place in the A-League playoffs with one game to spare, after their 1-1 draw against Brisbane Roar on Wednesday night.

Star striker Gary Hooper scored an 82nd-minute equaliser to rescue a crucial point for his side, ensuring the Phoenix can't drop out of the top six, regardless of other results.

Even though Talay was delighted to secure a finals berth, he was left frustrated as the Phoenix had chances to win the game and claim all three points. 

After Scott McDonald gave Brisbane the lead, Hooper blew a golden opportunity to level the scores six minutes later with an open net, but the former Celtic star later made amends for his mistake.

But the draw means their hopes of a top-two finish appear slim, as they are two points behind Melbourne City, who also have a game in hand. 

"The expectation of the club and players has always been high, and it's always been our goal to reach the top six," he says. 

"We walk away disappointed, but at the end of the day, one point is one point and we move on.

"Obviously, I would have liked more points on the table, but it is what it is at the moment. I'm very pleased with the performance tonight and with the reaction the players showed from the last game."

Before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, the Phoenix were on a four-game win streak, but they've been unable to produce the same form that propelled them up the standings. 

Talay isn't worried, as he knows his team is beginning to peak again with the playoffs in sight. 

Phoenix players celebrate after securing a finals berth.
Phoenix players celebrate after securing a finals berth. Photo credit: Photosport

"Three months of not playing football is not easy," says Talay.

"Having players at different levels coming back into the resumption was never going to be easy. Living in a hotel for seven weeks is never easy too.

"For me, what the players are producing, and the energy and efforts they're putting out there, I'm very pleased. The most important thing is we're firing once it comes to the business end of the season."

The Phoenix are back in action next Thursday, when they face Newcastle Jets, although they might be without Hooper, who sustained a hamstring injury while scoring his equaliser.

"We will go out there and target all three points against Newcastle, and we want to continue building that momentum towards the finals," says Talay. 

Join us next Thursday for live updates of the Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets A-League clash