Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert asked the assembled media after yesterday’s game if anyone had brought their boots. He was only half joking. If the Phoenix had to name a match-day squad today, Herbert himself would probably be one of the subs.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert asked the assembled media after yesterday-s game if anyone had brought their boots. He was only half joking. If the Phoenix had to name a match-day squad today, Herbert himself would probably be one of the subs.
The ludicrous sending off of Tim Brown, following the extremely dubious red card handed to Nick Ward mean they, and injured striker Paul Ifill, won-t be heading to Perth for the next game. Instead, they-ll join other injury casualties Mark Paston, Vince Lia, Mirjan Pavlovic, Lucas Pantelis and Jimmy Downey as spectators for the next match.
That-s eight players missing from the current squad of 21.
Hopefully common sense will prevail and one, if not both of the red cards will be downgraded or expunged. Ward clearly wasn-t the last man when he brought down Ryan Griffiths just outside the penalty area. A yellow card? Absolutely. A red. No way.
And as for Brown-s second yellow – well, that was just completely bizarre. Players in every match in the world do what Brown did – go to take a throw-in and then drop the ball over their shoulder for a team-mate to take it instead. The yellow card he received for this “offence” was ridiculous.
If, though, the red cards stand, the Phoenix are in a perilous state as they contemplate a trip to Perth, who are flying high with two wins from two. A possible side (in 4-4-2) might look like this … Warner; Tsattalios (on debut), Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead; Bertos, Muscat, newcomer Cameron Lindsay (also on debut), Daniel; Sanchez, Greenacre. That-d leave Brent Griffiths, Alex Smith and short-term goalkeeper Phil Imray on the bench with one player still to be found to make up a match-day fifteen. I-ll be calling Ricki later today to press my case and arrange to drop off my highlights reel.
But let-s look at the bright side of yesterday-s win in the Wellington sunshine. It was just a really comprehensive display and a perfect example of how to get three points in a football match. The Phoenix dominated every facet of the game against a Jets side that hardly fired a shot – literally. In fact, Jobe Wheelhouse-s tame strike late in the game which sailed harmlessly into the waiting arms of Tony Warner was the only effort the Jets managed on target in the entire match. The defensive line, marshalled superbly as always by skipper Andrew Durante was completely untroubled.
At the other end, Phoenix created plenty of chances with the wide players particularly prominent. It was great to see Tony Lochhead getting up and down the left like he did in season one, with his cross for Daniel-s goal the highlight. Leo Bertos was also busy and Chris Greenacre again put in a great shift, battling for every ball and generally making a nuisance of himself.
Four points from the first two games was probably a mini-target for the side and that has now been achieved. It-s certainly a better start than glamour sides Sydney and Melbourne Victory who find themselves goal-less after a collective six hours of football.
Victory themselves are the next visitors to Wellington with a big crowd expected in two weeks for the return of Marco Rojas and our first glimpse of Harry Kewell. But before Ricki Herbert can even begin to devise strategies to keep them at bay, he has to somehow piece together a side which can continue Phoenix-s good start to the season in Australia-s far west on Sunday evening.
They say strength is built through adversity – and the Phoenix-s solid start to the season is evidence of that – but the circumstances the team finds itself in after yesterday-s match will mean it-ll be all hands on deck – and some – if their unbeaten run is to continue. Funnily enough, I think regardless of the side Herbert puts out, they-ll rise to the occasion again. Meantime, I-ll be checking my passport just in case.