Half-century beckons for Lochhead

WELLINGTON Phoenix fullback Tony Lochhead will pen his name in the club’s record book when he lines up against Gold Coast United on Sunday.

WELLINGTON Phoenix fullback Tony Lochhead will pen his name in the club-s record book when he lines up against Gold Coast United on Sunday.

The 27-year-old New Zealand international will become the first Phoenix player to notch 50 games in the Hyundai A-League – a special milestone in a special game at Westpac Stadium.

Having joined the Phoenix for their inaugural season in the Hyundai A-League in 2007/08 from Major League Soccer outfit New England Revolution, Lochhead is one of seven foundation members still with the Wellington club.

“It-s very special for me personally,” he said. “Being one of the inaugural members of the Phoenix, it-ll be pretty cool to be the first one to get to 50.”

Making the match even more special for Lochhead and the Phoenix is the return of former club ace Shane Smeltz to Wellington. Smeltz, Lochhead-s All Whites teammate, scored 21 goals in two seasons for the Phoenix before joining Gold Coast United. Smeltz-s red hot scoring form has continued on the Glitter Strip, the marksman nailing 10 goals in just nine games.

However, he was completely nullified in the two teams- first ever clash – round nine clash at Skilled Park – with Lochhead and fellow Kiwi Ben Sigmund instrumental in a defensive effort that shut down the prolific scorer in a goalless draw the visitors dominated.

“Last time we played them whenever Smeltzy touched the ball there were three or four people on him,” Lochhead said. “Obviously having him with us last season we don-t want him to score against us, so I-m sure that he-ll be well looked after. In saying that, we-ll have to watch out for their other players but Smeltzy will get some special attention.

“I-m sure Siggy will let him know he-s there.”

While notching the half-century will be a special record for Lochhead, there-s another record he and the Phoenix would rather not have. Six consecutive draws in the most in Hyundai A-League history and it-s a run Lochhead said the Phoenix were desperate to break.

“We-ve been playing really good football at times but we-re not putting it together for the full 90 minutes. Last weekend-s game against North Queensland Fury was a prime example – we scored early and we were looking good. Then in the second half we switched off, stopped playing football and they probably could have put score two or three against us.

“It is frustrating. We are playing well for the most part and in several of those draws we probably deserved to come away with something more. We have to look on the positive side; we-re not conceding two or three goals a game like we were in previous seasons. We need to get in that winning habit – once we get that first one hopefully it-ll be easier to get the rest.”

And Lochhead hopes he can help his side get that vital win against Gold Coast on Sunday to snap the streak of draws. Perhaps he-ll even be able to replicate his own most memorable moment from his 49 previous Hyundai A-League matches.

“It was probably scoring a goal against Perth Glory in our first season in a 4-1 win. I don-t get on the scoresheet too often, so it would be pretty special to get another one against Gold Coast.”