The Wellington Phoenix are relishing a return to Sky Stadium for their fifth round Liberty A-League match against Adelaide United on Saturday.
The Phoenix women have played in Australia the past two weekends and had to deal with some testing trans-Tasman travel for the first time.
The Nix returned home from Melbourne and Canberra without a point and are looking forward to a week without flights.
“We’ve had a couple of brutal travel weekends so we’ll try and take advantage of being at home and stamp our authority,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence told media on Friday.
The players trained at the stadium on the eve of the match to get more familiar with the venue and try and turn it into their fortress.
“It was great having those first two games here,” Lawrence said. “We had a familiarisation session here as well, but it wasn’t with the full team as the Ferns were still away.
“Whilst not taking away the magic of a game day and the magic of being in the stadium [it’s about] just being more comfortable here, getting used to the size of the field and getting used to being in these surroundings so then we just get a little bit more comfortable with playing here and really try and make this an advantage for us.”
The women are playing the second match of the club’s inaugural A-League double-header at Sky Stadium.
“It’s really cool. We can come early and watch the men play and hopefully they stay and watch us as well. There’s definitely this quite cool club vibe happening.
It’s the weekend before Christmas and it’s going to be incredible just to see the fans here supporting both teams. Hopefully it’s a good weekend for football in Wellington.”
Lawrence is hopeful of being able to call on midfielder Grace Wisnewski for the first time this season.
Wisnewski missed the opening four matches with a torn calf but has trained with the squad in the lead-up to Saturday’s game.
“Wiz will be back. She got through training this week and was looking really good so we’re hoping to get her out this weekend, which will be amazing.”
Fellow Junior Football Fern Alyssa Whinham will miss the match.
“Alyssa has gone home due to personal reasons. We’re going to respect her privacy and hope to see her back soon.”
It will mean Natalie Lawrence will make a “slight reshuffle” to her midfield to play Adelaide.
“We’ve talked a lot about our midfield this week, the rotations and how we make sure we keep defensively sound as well.
“Alyssa will be a big loss. She causes a lot of team’s problems [but] bringing Wiz in we know she can get up and down the field and complement Betsy (Hassett).”
Lawrence wants her starting line-up to “really take it to Adelaide” and then “bring on our game changers”.
“We’ve talked a lot about what our game changers are and what impact they can have on the game.
“You’re no longer a sub. That’s not a thing. You come on and you make changes within the game. You see that at the World Cup, you saw that at the Euros and you saw that last week when Mickey Robertson and Mona (Te Reremoana Walker) came on they settled the game and they helped make a massive impact.
“The whole squad, the whole 16 has a big part to play, as well as the players that haven’t been selected or are injured.”
Adelaide United won both of last season’s meetings with the Phoenix and have made a strong start to the new campaign. They’re one of four teams tied at the top of the ladder through four rounds.
“Adelaide are looking really good,” Lawrence said. “They had a good season last year and they’ve kept a lot of their team.
“A lot of their players have played in Europe or in the NWSL so they’ve kept themselves playing at a really high level.
“You can see that they’re structured, and you can see that they have a game plan. We’ve looked at them a lot this week.”
The fifth round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 5:40pm (3:40pm AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE and free-to-air on Prime Television and on Sky Sport 2 in New Zealand, and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 18 February 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Adelaide United 4
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Adelaide 2W & 0D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Saskia VOSPER, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Emma ROLSTON, 17. Claudia CICCO, 18. Te Reremoana WALKER, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER, 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 3. Kate TAYLOR (injured), 10. Alyssa WHINHAM (personal reasons).
Adelaide United squad: 1.Annalee GROVE (gk), 2.Emily HODGSON, 6.Jenna McCORMICK, 7.MelindaJ BARBIERI, 8.Emily CONDON, 9.Paige HAYWARD, 10.Chelsie DAWBER, 12.Nanako SASAKI, 14.Meisha WESTLAND, 15.Katie BOWLER, 16.Dylan HOLMES, 17.Zoe TOLLAND, 18.Sasha COOREY, 19.Maruschka WALDUS, 20.Jenna FARROW (gk), 22.Emilia MURRAY, 23.Fiona WORTS, 24.Abby MIDDLETON, 26.Grace WILSON (gk).
Unavailable: 11. Isabel HODGSON (c) (personal reasons), 13.Ella TONKIN (foot), 21.Yuyi XIAO (visa not approved).