WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is demanding a much more ruthless approach from players in goal-scoring positions when his team takes on the Perth Glory on Sunday.
The Phoenix squandered a raft of gilt-edged second-half scoring opportunities in last weekend-s 1-0 loss to the Queensland Roar, a match Herbert felt could have been won by the Wellington club with more clinical finishing.
“We-re the type of team we-re you-re always thinking it-s just around the corner, that we might just put three or four past somebody. But you-ve got to have the quality to do that and we-ve got to be a hell of a lot more ruthless in that front third of the pitch.
“It-s not that we-re not getting players into good positions – we are – but we have to increase our percentages in shots on target because we-re probably way down in terms of the capabilities of what the side can achieve.”
With the Phoenix ranking lowest in the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season to date in total shots (84) and shots on target (30), Herbert has demanded his strikers show more willingness to pull the trigger in the round 10 match at Members Equity Stadium on Sunday as they attempt to grab back the three competition points they gifted to the Glory in Perth in round five.
“They need to back themselves. There were good signs in that last 45 minutes against Queensland and we showed that we can put teams on the back foot.”
While the strikeforce is yet to click, the Phoenix-s defence and midfield continues to go from strength to strength.
“We haven-t scored enough goals [eight in nine matches] but we are tough to break down at the moment and that-s giving us opportunities to win football games. We just need to take the chances that are coming our way.”
With the back four of Ben Sigmund, captain Andrew Durante, Karl Dodd and Tony Lochhead solid and the pairing of Jon McKain and Tim Brown dominating in the defensive midfield, the onus will be on the Phoenix-s midfield playmakers and strikers to punish Perth.
Strikers Shane Smeltz and Vaughan Coveny have been menacing, while Leilei Gao and former Glory ace Leo Bertos have the pace and skill to break down any defence.
Herbert has sprung something of a surprise by selecting speedy young winger/striker Costa Barbarouses in the 15-man Phoenix squad to play Perth. Barbarouses, 18, comes into the squad in place of Adam Kwasnik and is set to make just his second Hyundai A-League appearance on Sunday.
“Costa gives us some pace and options out wide,” Herbert said. “He-s an exciting talent and he-s probably got that fearless quality about him at the moment where he just wants to get out there and show what he can do.”
Durante said Sunday-s match was an important one for the playoff aspirations of both teams. Although the competition remains tight, the Phoenix do not want to lose touch with the teams above them.
“It-s never easy in Perth and it could prove a season-defining game for both teams. The key thing is we continue to play good football, because we-re very tough to beat and we-ve showed that over the last few weeks.”
Sunday, November 2
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
Members Equity Stadium, Perth
Local kickoff 5pm (7pm AEDT, 9pm NZDT)
Referee: Chris Beath
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and on Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is 6PR (Perth) and Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM.
Perth Glory squad: 30. Tando VELAPHI (gk), 2. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 4. Jamie COYNE (c), 5. Jamie HARNWELL, 6. Dino DJULBIC, 7. Nick RIZZO, 9. Adrian TRINIDAD, 10. AMARAL, 11. Scott BULLOCH, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 14. Eugene DADI, 16. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17. James DOWNEY, 18. Hayden FOXE, 19. Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20. Frank JURIC (gk), 22. Wayne SRHOJ. * two to be omitted.
In: 7. Nick RIZZO (promoted), 14. Eugene DADI (return from injury).
Unavailable: Josip MAGDIC (ankle – season), James ROBINSON (abdomen – 7 weeks), David TARKA (quad – 1 week).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Vaughan COVENY, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES.
In: 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted).
Out: 15. Adam KWASNIK (omitted).
Unavailable: 17. Vince LIA (knee – season).
* Head-to-head: All matches (played 4): Perth Glory wins 1, Wellington Phoenix wins 3 (0 draws).In Perth (played 2): Perth Glory wins 1, Wellington Phoenix wins 1 (0 draws).