Break could prove the tonic

THE international fixture window could not have come at a better time for the Wellington Phoenix as they look to get their season back on track after a disappointing start to the Hyundai A-League season.

An unimpressive draw and a loss at home in their first two matches was followed on Saturday night by a 3-0 hammering away to Adelaide United – the Phoenix turning in a performance skipper Andrew Durante could only sum up as “garbage”.

With the Hyundai A-League taking a two-week break for international fixtures, the soul-searching has already begun ahead of what is shaping as a crunch match against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium on September 14.

“The break has probably come at a good time for us,” said head coach Ricki Herbert. “It-s a good chance for us to reflect on things and to turn our attention back to what we were doing before [in the 2008 Pre-Season Cup competition].”

The Phoenix were one of the standout outfits during the competition warm-up tournament, making the final following some excellent performances.

But that early form has not translated into the season proper to date and Saturday night-s loss to Adelaide comes as a sobering reminder that plenty of work needs to be done.

Herbert was left seeing red at Hindmarsh Stadium as his team struggled throughout the match.

“It was really disappointing. We were absolutely not at the level we needed to be and we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves right across the board. We were flat throughout and no one made a contribution from a 60, 70 or 80-minute point of view.”

Vaughan Coveny was rushed across the Tasman to replace an under-the-weather Shane Smeltz on the eve of the match but Herbert refused to put his side-s poor showing down to the late loss of his star striker, or the fact that up to five more of his players were laid low with the flu in Adelaide.

“Quite simply we need to accept the reality that we weren-t up to scratch. It wasn-t good enough and we need to be better.”

Recapturing the impressive cohesion and belief within the squad, evident during the 2008 Pre-Season Cup competition, would be paramount ahead of facing the Mariners at home in two weeks- time.

“We-ve got to knuckle back down and keep working on it,” Herbert said. “We-ve gone away from what we were doing well – working hard and working together. The only way things are going to turn around is by us working as a unit, with a unified approach.

“These times can be important for everybody and everyone has to be on the same page. Work-rate, energy, enthusiasm – that-s what needs to be shown by everybody.”