Perth Glory may have the Shane Smeltz factor but Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund hasn’t seen much else to have him worried ahead of Saturday’s Hyundai A-League minor semi-final.
Smeltz grabbed all the headlines following his hat-trick in Glory’s 3-0 win over Melbourne Heart on Sunday night and will be the man the Phoenix have to stop if they are to keep their dreams of reaching a first grand final alive.
“Perth are definitely beatable after watching (Sunday) night,” said the New Zealand centre-back. “Shane popped up and scored those goals but to be fair I thought that was pretty much all they had.”
“I’d be pretty disappointed if I let three go past from Shane Smeltz. We’ve got to go there pretty confident.”
But keeping Smeltz scoreless is no easy task. He has notched seven goals in his past two games and now has 16 for the season.
But Wellington have managed to contain him in their two most recent encounters with the Glory and Sigmund has his New Zealand teammate, and friend, in his sights again.
“He should always be watching his back when Siggy is chasing him,” joked Sigmund. “It’s mark him tight and don’t let him have a sniff. As soon as he gets a sniff he just seems to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Like the commentators were saying the other night, you won’t see him for 60 minutes and then he’ll just pop up and score a couple of great goals.”
“That’s the challenge to make sure you’ve always got him on your shoulder and you’ve marked him tightly.”
Sigmund has also developed the knack of being in the right place at the right time too this season.
He opened up his account against Perth in December with a match-winning header and added a further two goals to his tally in matches against Sydney, the latter when he headed home a Leo Bertos corner for Wellington’s second against the Sky Blues in last Friday night’s 3-2 win.
“It’s just making stronger runs into the box, trying to lose my man,” he said. “At times I’m starting a bit deeper and just trying to hit the ball.”
“Sometimes it’s luck, just popping up at the right time. To be fair at the weekend we spoke about trying to isolate me around the back post.”
“It was Tim Brown who called it so he should take the credit for that one. It was nice to pop up and score that one.”
Wellington will head to Perth as underdogs given they have never managed to win a finals series match away from home. They lost to Sydney in 2010 and Adelaide United last year.
“Everyone’s confidence is high. Sometimes it’s nice to be the underdog,” said Sigmund.
“I don’t think it really matters. Finals football, nothing is going to change. Whoever takes their chances and scores their goals and turns up on the day is the team that’s going to go to the next round.”