A work in progress

ROLL up the sleeves, lads – there’s plenty of work to do.

ROLL up the sleeves, lads – there-s plenty of work to do.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert and his players are under no illusions about what lies ahead in the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season, taking a “big picture” approach to the remainder of the campaign.

Sunday-s against-the-odds win against competition high-flyers Sydney FC was a huge fillip for the Herbert and the players, the 2-1 victory at Westpac Stadium the Phoenix-s first of the season.

But everyone involved in Sunday-s important win knows it is just the first step on a much longer journey that continues on Monday when the Phoenix tackle the Newcastle Jets at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

“We said prior to the Sydney game that we had 16 matches to make a difference in the league,” Herbert said. “It-s important that we remain focused on the big picture. The guys naturally enjoyed the result and they should be proud of what they achieved, but Sunday was just one game and everyone knows there-s still a lot of work to be done. We start again this week with our focus on Newcastle.

“We-ve got four out of five games away now, so we-ve got some travelling to do. Those challenges don-t go away and we know what we-ve got in front of us. The most important thing is to get back on the training pitch and keep working hard. We-ve got 15 games to go and it-s very much step by step at this stage.”

Sunday-s boilover win at Westpac Stadium was all the more significant given the Phoenix were missing key personnel against Sydney, including keeper Glen Moss, skipper Andrew Durante and centre back partner Jon McKain.

Herbert said the late changes were a test of his squad-s depth but he was thrilled with the way the team responded.

“There were opportunities for players. We were forced into some changes through injuries and illness but the players that were given the chance certainly didn-t disappoint. There was a lot of desire and commitment from the players against Sydney and that-s what flows through the team.

“I think it-s sent a clear message right throughout the squad that there-s depth there and people can step up. It-ll be an interesting week and there-ll be a few tough decisions to make ahead of the game against Newcastle, but that-s always a good problem to have.”

And there was another fine team performance Herbert credited as key to the victory against Sydney – the “12th man” support of the Phoenix-s fans. While Sunday-s 6729-strong crowd was far from the Phoenix-s biggest, it was certainly one of the loudest, everyone cheering the team on to victory.

“The crowd support was phenomenal. They-re vocal and passionate people and they were in great form on Sunday. Everyone attached to the team was really thankful for what they did getting behind us and driving us all the way.”

Monday-s Hyundai A-League round seven match between the Wellington Phoenix and the Newcastle Jets kicks off at 5pm NZDT (3pm AEDT) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1.