WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is hoping for déjà vu in Christchurch on Sunday when his team hosts Hyundai A-League high-flyers Adelaide United.
The Phoenix have beaten the Reds just once in 10 previous meetings – their only win to date coming at AMI Stadium in the Phoenix-s home away from home last season.
That 1-0 win at AMI Stadium, in front of almost 20,000 fans, spurred the Phoenix-s charge into the 2009/10 Finals Series and Herbert is hoping the Phoenix-s southern sojourn can reinvigorate their current campaign.
“If it-s any reflection on last year it-ll be a great weekend. At that stage, too, getting a good result last year was the most important thing. Everything went well for us, so hopefully it-ll be a case of déjà vu this time around.”
A win would be just the tonic for the Phoenix, who suffered a cruel 3-1 defeat away to Sydney FC midweek courtesy of two controversial goals from the hosts. Sydney striker Mark Bridge appeared to be offside for his side-s second goal while their third came as a result of a move where Sebastian Ryall deliberately handled the ball.
Still, the record shows the Phoenix were beaten, though Herbert took plenty of positives from the performance.
“There were periods of that game where we played extremely well. I think in the past three weeks we-ve shown there has been steady improvement. It-s disappointing to hear suggestions that our comments (regarding the controversial goals) were excuses about the result.
“We never sought to present an excuse. All we-ve asked for is some answers (from officials) – nothing else. We-ve got our own hard work to do and take care of in our own backyard and there have been some very positive signs.
“We-re now starting to look like a side that-s capable against anybody. We have to continue to look like that and continue to keep playing that way. If we do that we-ll pick up wins more often than not.”
The Phoenix-s defence continues to cause concerns for Herbert, who will demand a much tighter effort against Adelaide. Herbert-s cause has not been helped by what he admits is something of a “cut and paste” back four. Injury to regular left back Tony Lochhead has forced several re-jigs of the defensive line, with Troy Hearfield, Ben Sigmund, James Musa, Jade North and Manny Muscat all used in fullback positions.
“It-s been hard,” said Herbert. “I think people forget how reliable Tony has been for us and what he brings to the club. We-ve had to cut and paste a little bit and sometimes the balance hasn-t been what we-ve wanted.”
Herbert continues to strive for consistency in formation and selection, depending largely on the core players who took the Phoenix within one game of last season-s grand final. The means the midfield trio of Manny Muscat, Vince Lia and Tim Brown will start in Christchurch, with Leo Bertos likely to return to the XI if he can prove he has fully recovered from a groin strain that forced him to miss the Sydney game.
However, the composition of the back four still has Herbert scratching his head. Skipper Andrew Durante and Socceroo Jade North were the centre backs in Sydney, while regular central defender Ben Sigmund played in an unaccustomed left back position.
“That-s always a tough one because those three are good players and three doesn-t go into two (positions). Ben gives you that real up and at ‘em attitude, while Jade has great international experience. The problem is that if we go and change again then it becomes a recycling of the back four.
“We-ll see. I-m not sure there-ll be a lot of change, maybe one of the fullback positions might be up for discussion.”
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Local kickoff: 5pm (3pm AEDT)
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD and Sky Sports 1 (NZ). Hyundai A-League club partners are The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM and ABC Digital (Adelaide). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Nick WARD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 12. James MUSA, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 15. Jade NORTH, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Dylan MACALLISTER, 26. Simon ELLIOTT
*four to be omitted*
In: Leo BERTOS (return from injury), Simon ELLIOTT (return from injury), Mirjan PAVLOVIC (promoted), James MUSA (return from illness)
Unavailable: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin – 2 weeks), Oscar Roberto CORNEJO (knee – 2 weeks)
Adelaide United FC squad: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2. Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4. Iain FYFE, 5. Daniel MULLEN, 6. CASSIO, 7. Lucas PANTELIS, 8. Adam HUGHES, 9. Sergio VAN DIJK, 10. Marcos FLORES, 12. Paul REID, 13. Travis DODD (c), 16. Inseob SHIN, 17. Iain RAMSAY, 18. Fabian BARBIERO, 20. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 24. Cameron WATSON, 26. Joe KEENAN
*two to be omitted*
In: Inseob SHIN (promoted), Joe KEENAN (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Mathew LECKIE (knee – 6 weeks), Joe COSTA (knee – season)
Head-to-head: All matches (played 10): Wellington Phoenix wins 1, Adelaide United wins 5 (4 draws)