Durante’s delightful dilemma

WHEN the final whistle blew at Westpac Stadium last Sunday, Andrew Durante was elated.

Suffering from the flu, the regular Wellington Phoenix skipper was confined to home, forced to watch the Phoenix-Sydney FC clash on television.

With a raft of changes forced on the Phoenix, it was something of a makeshift side that took the field against Sydney. But what a job the team did, beating the Hyundai A-League-s glamour boys 2-1, with goals to Shane Smeltz and Tim Brown securing the confidence-boosting first win of the season.

“It was fantastic,” Durante said. “I was at home watching it and I was on the edge of my seat. We started a little bit slowly but as we grew in confidence we pressed all over the park and showed a lot of heart and character. When Brownie got that second goal, mate, I was jumping all around the living room – it was great.”

Then, once the elation wore off, something dawned on Durante. Would he be able to force his way back into the Phoenix lineup to play the Newcastle Jets on Monday after the superb performance by the Phoenix-s back four against Sydney?

“As a team it-s fantastic that the players who stepped in for some of the guys who have been playing regularly really did a great job. That shows the depth in the squad and that no one-s position is safe.”

Fortunately for Durante, he has proven to Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert this week that he has sufficiently recovered from his illness and will line up on Monday at Energy Australia Stadium against his former teammates.

Herbert has opted to stick with the bulk of the squad the beat Sydney FC, with Durante-s inclusion one of only two changes. Manny Muscat drops out of the 15, while Team Wellington goalkeeper Phil Imray gets a call-up to the big time. With regular No 1 stopper Glen Moss still bothered by a minor injury, Mark Paston will start in goal against the Jets. Imray makes the bench in place of last weekend-s backup keeper Jacob Spoonley.

While the Phoenix are taking a steady approach as they search for their first ever back-to-back wins in the Hyundai A-League, the Jets have some significant personnel problems forced by injuries and representative duties.

“They-ve got some key guys out,” Durante said. “It-s probably a good time to get them but also a dangerous time. They-re the sort of team that when everything-s against them they can lift and, especially being at home, they-ll have the crowd behind them.”

And how does the hero of the Jets- championship-winning side last season expect to be greeted by that crowd on his return to Newcastle?

“A couple of people I-ve spoken to over there are telling me I should expect a pretty friendly welcome. I don-t believe that, of course, but we-ll wait and see.”

Monday-s match kicks off at 3pm AEDT (5pm NZDT) and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 2 in Australia and Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand.

Monday, October 6, 2008
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
EnergyAustralia Stadium
Local kickoff:
3pm AEDT (5pm NZDT)
Referee: Craig Zetter

Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ante COVIC (gk), 3. Jade NORTH (captain), 6. Jesper HAKANSSON, 7. Kaz PATAFTA, 8. Matt THOMPSON, 10. Jin-Hyung SONG,11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 13. Adam D-APUZZO, 17. Antun KOVACIC, 18. Noel SPENCER, 20. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 23. Edmundo ZURA, 25. Daniel PIORKOWSKI.

In: 23. Edmundo ZURA (return from injury), 7. Kaz PATAFTA (promoted), 17. Antun KOVACIC (promoted).
Out: 9. Joel GRIFFITHS (hamstring – 3 weeks), 2. Adam GRIFFITHS (hamstring – 1 week), 15. Jason HOFFMAN (knee – season), 5. James HOLLAND (Qantas Young Socceroos duties).
Unavailable: 14. Shaun ONTONG (ankle – indefinite), 16. Ben KANTAROVSKI (Joeys duties), 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI (Young Socceroos duties).

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 8. Vaughan COVENY, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Richard JOHNSON, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain), 30. Phil IMRAY (gk).

In: 22. Andrew DURANTE (return from illness), 30. Phil IMRAY (gk) (short-term replacement).
Out: 25. Manny MUSCAT (omitted), 30. Jacob SPOONLEY (gk) (short-term replacement released)
Unavailable: 16. David MULLIGAN (flu – 1 week), 17. Vince LIA (knee – season).

* Head-to-head: All matches (played 3): Newcastle Jets wins 2, Wellington Phoenix wins 1 (0 draws). In Newcastle (played 2): Newcastle Jets wins 1, Wellington Phoenix wins 1 (0 draws)