SMELTZ returns with a bang


Shane Smeltz marks his return to the team with a classic goal.

Shane Smeltz marked his return to Perth Glory’s starting eleven by opening his account for the season in trademark style, but Ian Ferguson’s side were ultimately forced to settle for a point from Saturday night’s clash with Wellington Phoenix.

Returning to haunt his former club yet again, Smeltz bagged the 67th goal of his A-League career with a superb right-foot strike just after the hour-mark, before the in-form Jeremy Brockie replied for the visitors eleven minutes later with a similarly accomplished run and finish.

There was plenty of drama and colour at nib Stadium before kick-off, the former provided by a powerful electrical storm breaking overhead and the latter by the Glory players and large swathes of the home crowd who had decked themselves out in white to mark White Line Fever day to support Therapy Focus.

The first-half itself, however, did not prove to be quite as spectacular, with clear-cut chances a little thin on the ground despite the best efforts of both sides.

That said, both ‘keepers did have to make at least one smart stop apiece, Danny Vukovic scrambling to his right to keep out a close-range effort from promising Phoenix youngster Louis Fenton before Mark Paston denied Travis Dodd in unorthodox fashion, deflecting the Glory midfielder’s header wide with his left foot.

A congested midfield area and slippery conditions prevented either side from really clicking into gear and establishing much in the way of sustained pressure, although Scott Jamieson’s excellent corner delivery caused the visitors several anxious moments, while Paul Ifill and Fenton looked Phoenix’s best hope of breaking the deadlock.

Glory looked far more purposeful at the start of the second-half, however, noticeably upping the tempo, penning the visitors into their own half and coming within centimetres of taking the lead on 53 minutes.

Josh Risdon it was who went agonisingly close to bagging his first ever A-League goal when he latched onto a half-cleared Jamieson corner and fired in a sweetly-struck left-foot shot that beat Paston all ends up, only to crash against the foot of the post and rebound away to safety.

Smeltz then stood tall when his side needed him most, the A-League’s record goalscorer duly delivered.

Picked out by a superb flick-on from the tireless Billy Mehmet, the 31-year-old out-foxed Andrew Durante, dragged the ball onto his right foot and beat his All Whites’ colleague Paston low to his right.

Brockie, however, was clearly keen to show that Smeltz is not New Zealand’s only striking option and on 73 minutes he proved it by bagging his fifth goal of the season.

The former Newcastle man’s foot looked a little high as he dinked the ball over Steve Pantelidis, but referee Strebre Delovski saw nothing wrong in the challenge and Phoenix’s number eleven raced into the box before sliding the ball under the advancing Vukovic.

In keeping with the rest of the contest, both sides duly went in search of the winner in the latter stages, with Glory grateful to Pantelidis for blocking another goalbound effort from the lively Brockie and both Liam Miller and Jamieson flashing long-range free-kicks narrowly off-target at the other end.

The third goal of the game failed to materialise, however and Glory’s frustrations were compounded by Jacob Burns picking up a fifth yellow card of the season to rule himself out of next Friday’s trip to Melbourne Victory.