Teenage striker Milly Clegg has celebrated her call-up to the Football Ferns with a matchwinning double as she fired the Wellington Phoenix to a 3-1 women’s A-League win against Adelaide United.
Clegg (17) scored two second-half goals after the sides were level at 1-1 at halftime, her goals helping the side get to within two points of nearest rivals Newcastle Jets with one round to play in the Liberty A-League.
Main photo: Milly Clegg seals the win with her second goal, scored in stoppage time.
“She’s riding a bit of a high,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said post-game. “It’s been a really good season for her. She’s kept herself grounded … and today she showed what she can offer.
“While she’s young and the Ferns will be a big step up for her, she’s got something that’s different. I’m really excited to see how she gets on.”
If the Nix beat reigning champions Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon and Newcastle fail to upset high-flying Sydney FC, Wellington will move off the bottom of the ladder.
“I was hoping that it wouldn’t come down to this, but we didn’t do what we needed to do against Newcastle.
“We spoke a lot about bringing it back to our basics, back to our principles, the football we want to be known for and the result will take care of itself, and it did today.
“Really, really pleased with the whole squad and how everyone has reacted since the Newcastle game.
“Victory have won the last two seasons and they’re fighting for their spot in the top four so it’s going to be a pretty big game for both teams.”
Five changes to starting line-up
Natalie Lawrence made five changes to the XI which started Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Newcastle, with scholarship players Georgia Candy and Charlotte Lancaster handed their first starts.
Candy replaced Brianna Edwards in goal, while Lancaster was selected in a new front three alongside Ava Pritchard and Clegg. Claudia Cicco also came into the side at right back.
Injury replacement Emma Main, fullbacks Zoe McMeeken and Saskia Vosper and midfielder Te Reremoana Walker were brought on to the bench with Marisa van der Meer, Paige Satchell, Michaela Robertson and Emma Rolston rested with an eye to the Victory on Saturday.
“To be able to rotate the squad and show the depth of the squad … is also a real highlight.
“It showed the principles of the team, the character of the team and the power of the squad that we could make as many changes as we did and everyone knows their role and everyone is on the same page.
“Now we’ve got a big decision on our hands for the starting XI and 16 to face Melbourne Victory.”
It was an uneventful opening quarter of an hour, with an off target shot from Clegg in the second minute the only goal-scoring opportunity for either side.
The match came alive in the 19th minute. Betsy Hassett had a powerful shot blocked on the edge of the Adelaide box before Clegg earned the Phoenix a corner when her shot was deflected over the byline. Lancaster then delivered a pinpoint right-wing corner to the near post that Chloe Knott headed home for her first goal of the season.
The Reds equalised just 75 seconds later, with Fiona Worts nodding in a right-wing cross from Emilia Murray at the back post. It was Adelaide’s first shot of the match.
Michaela Foster was able to push further forward as the half progressed and she produced a great piercing through ball in the 37th minute. Unfortunately for Pritchard and the Nix she wasn’t able to get on the end of Foster’s pass and force a save from Annalee Grove in Adelaide’s goal.
Moments later, Grove quickly came off her line for a 50-50 challenge with Clegg which came off the young Phoenix forward and out for a goal-kick.
The Reds finished the half the stronger of the two sides and registered a further three shots on target in the final five minutes, but all were comfortably held by Candy in Wellington’s goal.
Lancaster had a busy start to the second-half, shooting narrowly wide of Grove’s right-hand post from distance before finding the roof of the Adelaide ‘keeper’s net with a cross-come-shot.
She then made way for Main in the 56th minute, allowing the injury replacement to make her A-League debut.
Both sides came close to breaking the deadlock midway through the second half. Candy did well to deal with a dangerous Adelaide corner, before a powerful first-time shot from Foster missed Grove’s right-hand post by mere centimetres.
Clegg put the Phoenix back in front in the 75th minute, when she rounded the Reds’ ‘keeper and shot into an empty net after getting on the end of a defence-splitting pass from Main.
Adelaide came close to a near instant equaliser with centre back Maruschka Waldus rattling Candy’s right-hand post from a free-kick.
Georgia Candy then produced a top-drawer save in the 83rd minute to parry away a thumping shot from Dylan Holmes.
Annalee Grove too produced a sharp save to keep out a Main header from close-range moments later.
The Reds pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages, but were unable to test Candy and the Nix hit them on the counter in the sixth minute of time added on.
A shot from Clegg at the top of the box took a big deflection off Waldus and it looped over Grove who was unable to keep it out of the back of the net.
The Wellington Phoenix will have just a couple of days to prepare to host the Victory at Sky Stadium, but now have the added incentive of potentially avoiding the wooden spoon
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Game played on Tuesday March 28, 2023
Adelaide United 1 (Fiona Worts 21′)
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Chloe Knott 19′, Milly Clegg 75′, 90+6′)