They lost 3-0, haven’t won any of their last four games and missed out on the opportunity to try and snatch a top-two finish.
But Wellington Phoenix boss Ufuk Talay insists he’s “not disappointed at all” after his side ended the regular season with a humbling defeat against Newcastle Jets.
Nick Fitzgerald scored just before half-time before quickfire goals from Bernie Ibini and Jason Hoffman late in the second-half made it a frustrating night for the Phoenix.
It’s far from an ideal way for the Kiwi club to head into an Elimination Final – on either August 22 or 23 – but Talay refused to be critical of his troops.
Phoenix dominated large periods and created a host of excellent opportunities against the Jets but couldn’t find a way past debutant keeper Noah James.
Despite only picking up two points from their last four fixtures, Talay said he couldn’t have asked for any more from his players.
“We’re in the finals and that’s where we’ve worked to be,” Talay told Fox Sports.
“I’m very proud of the group and what they have achieved. Very proud of the sacrifices they have made, not just the players but the families back at home.
“We’ve been in NSW for eight weeks now so it’s not an easy period.
“I think we created enough to win in the first half but Noah James had a good game.”
Talay was certainly right to give the Jets No.1 praise.
The 19-year-old only found out two days ago he would be making his first Hyundai A-League start and he repaid coach Carl Robinson’s faith.
James made four sensational saves, including a double stop at the feet of Liberato Cacace minutes before the Jets scored the decisive second goal.
“It was awesome, just being out there for me first game. To get the win and the clean sheet and made a couple of saves as well…it was really good,” said James, who named Maty Ryan and David De Gea as his goalkeeping heroes.
“I just wanted that first touch and it to go well and I made that [early] save and I felt good from there.”
The Jets have been one of the competition’s form sides since Robinson took charge in mid-February, picking up more wins (six) and more points (21) in that time than any other side.
It wasn’t enough to reach the finals after a rough start to the campaign, but the future looks bright.
“It would have been nice to start our run a couple of weeks earlier,” skipper Nigel Boogaard – who turns 34 on Friday - admitted.
“But obviously the new coaching staff coming in and credit to the boys in the break, everyone stayed fit so when we came back we were able to start at a very high standard.
“It’s disappointing to not make the six but obviously some great signs for next year.”
While the Jets will start focusing on 2020/21, Wellington have nine or 10 days to prepare for their finals clash against either Perth Glory or Western United FC.