Pitch battle last thing that Phoenix wanted

IF THE powers that be at Wellington Phoenix are trying to convince the A-League hierarchy that the New Zealand club should remain in the competition then I suggest the club does not play any more games at QBE Stadium in North Harbour, Auckland.

With the club's future in the balance after an application for a 10-year licence was declined by Football Federation Australia, Phoenix officials should be doing all they can to appease those in charge of our domestic game.

You have to commend the decision to try to spread the A-League word across New Zealand, but the the club's top brass would not have liked what they saw in Auckland.

The 2-0 defeat of champions Melbourne Victory was just what the doctor ordered on the field, but it was the field itself that was the real problem.

It was a disgrace.

QBE Stadium had been the main ground when New Zealand hosted the recent FIFA Under-20 World Cup, but the grass was re-sown after the end of the domestic rugby season.

The pitch on Saturday was simply not good enough for sport at this level and I can totally understand why Victory coach Kevin Muscat was so upset.

He said his team deserved to lose because they weren't good enough, but also said the game should not have been played on such an awful surface.

"In this day and age to play elite professional sport on that … they've got something wrong. That is substandard for elite football. It's as simple as that," he said.

"We've had the unfortunate pleasure of playing on a few cricket pitches, but apart from the cricket pitch the rest of the surface is okay. The last time I checked, grass is a pretty vital ingredient for a game of football. Unfortunately there was none there today."

I have to agree with Muscat.

No player at this level should be forced to play on such a poor pitch. and it is also an insult to the more than 10,000 fans who paid good money to watch to be offered up a spectacle such as that.

What was a good spectacle, however, was that on offer at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers.

That game was a great advert for the A-League and also goes to show how things can change in the world of football.

The Wanderers and Roar kicked off the season in October with Brisbane easing to a 3-1 success.
Tony Popovic's men then drew and lost their next two fixtures and a second season of struggle looked on the cards.

But six straight wins have propelled the Wanderers to the top of the ladder with former Roar striker Mitch Nichols one of the star performers for Popovic.

His winning goal in the Wanderers' 2-1 success on Saturday was good enough to grace any game.
It was just a shame that only 9860 fans were there to see it following the Red and Black Bloc's boycott.

Let's hope that's the last we see of those.

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