Three points is a must for Ufuk Talay and the Wellington Phoenix in their eighth round Isuzu UTE A-League match against Adelaide United at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Phoenix have just seven points to show from their opening seven matches, with one win, four draws and two defeats.
They have been left to rue what could have been, having led in all but two of their games this season.
“I think the football’s been good,” Talay told media ahead of playing Adelaide. “We’ve gone into games where we’ve gone up but allowed the opponents to come into the game.
“One thing we need to do is win our home games. It’s very important.
“We need to do a job and make sure we walk away with the three points.”
It is the second meeting between the Nix and Adelaide this season.
The two sides met in the opening round at Sky Stadium, with the Reds snatching a point courtesy of a stoppage time equaliser.
Wellington played most of that match with just 10 men but scored first through Ben Waine 15 minutes from fulltime.
“We defended quite well for 70 minutes, Talay said. “For me it was nearly a perfect game with 10 men.
“To concede very late the way that we did from a set piece and give up two points was disappointing.
“The most important thing is we need to win our home games.”
It is the men’s sixth home game in the opening eight rounds, meaning only 11 their remaining 18 matches will across the Tasman.
Talay has yet to settle on a regular XI so far this season, with further changes made for the team’s first game back from the A-League’s FIFA World Cup break.
“That break helped players that had little niggles come back. Obviously the ones that had little niggles weren’t able to train the full three weeks that we had so we had to pick a squad that was the fittest and the freshest to play against the Wanderers.
“Sometimes that opens up the door for someone in the starting XI and to build some consistency as well.
“We might go down the same way that we did last week with the starting XI. There might be a couple of changes, but I always like consistency. It’s nice to get consistency with the players on the park and I think that helps the group.”
Ufuk Talay has a near full-strength squad to pick from with only Finn Surman (shoulder) and Oskar van Hattum (adductor) side-lined with injuries.
Club captain Alex Rufer is again a chance of making his first appearance of the season, nine months after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“I think physically he’s in a good space, the side for Alex is the mental side of being prepared to actually go out there and play when he’s thrown on the park.
“He’s been training quite well with the group and we’ll make a decision with Alex where he feels he’s at and we’ll make a decision about whether he’s available or not to be involved.”
The club’s supporters group the Yellow Fever will be staging a protest on Saturday to show their opposition to the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) board’s decision to sell the hosting rights to the A-League grand finals to Sydney for the next three years.
At the 20th minute of the men’s match they will leave the Fever Zone and sit with travelling Adelaide United fans, out of shot of television cameras, and will remain there for the women’s match that follows.
Talay understands their frustration and says it’s up to them how they express it.
“I know regardless our Yellow Fever, our fans will always support our team through thick and thin, whether we’re doing well or we’re not doing well.
“The fans play a massive role within the game. I’ve always said that without fans the game is nothing.”
The eighth round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE and free-to-air on Prime Television and on Sky Sport 2 in New Zealand, and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 9 October 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Adelaide United 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 10W, Adelaide 20W & 14D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 3. Finn SURMAN (injured), 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (injured).
Adelaide United squad: 1.James DELIANOV (gk), 4.Nick ANSELL, 6.Louis D’ARRIGO, 7.Ryan KITTO, 9.Hiroshi IBUSUKI, 11.Craig GOODWIN (c), 13.Lachlan BARR, 14.George BLACKWOOD, 21.Javi LÓPEZ, 26.Ben HALLORAN, 27.Josh CAVALLO, 28.JUANDE, 36.Panashe MADANHA, 37.Jonny YULL, 41.Alexandar POPOVIĆ, 46.Joe GAUCI (gk), 47.Asad KASUMOVIĆ, 49.Musa TOURE, 55.Ethan ALAGICH, 66.Nestory IRANKUNDA.
Unavailable: 2.Harry VAN DER SAAG (injured), 3.Ben WARLAND (injured), 8.ISAÍAS (suspended), 10.Zach CLOUGH (injured), 31.BERNARDO (injured), 50.Steven HALL (injured).