The Wellington Phoenix hope the new year will signal a change in the club’s fortunes in the Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix women sit bottom of the A-League ladder with five defeats from their first five matches of the 2022-23 season.
Head coach Natalie Lawrence wants her side to start 2023 with a bang when they host fellow strugglers Western Sydney Wanderers on Monday afternoon.
“Last year was last year and we can right the wrongs and start 2023, which is an amazing year for women’s football in New Zealand, strong and really, really take it to Western Sydney and get points,” Lawrence said on the eve of the match.
“We’ve got to go in with confidence. We’ve got to look at that Adelaide game. We were much tighter defensively, which allowed us to attack.
“We had more shots on target in that game and their goalkeeper pulled off some great saves for Adelaide.
“We’ve done a lot of work on that final third. We got Chris Greenacre (former Phoenix striker) in to come in and do a session with the players and add a different voice.”
Wanderers have also started the season with five defeats and are the only Liberty A-League club yet to beat the Phoenix.
The Nix drew with Western Sydney on debut last season before winning the return fixture 3-2.
But Lawrence says you can’t compare this Wanderers team to last season’s squad.
“When you look at their team, they’re completely different. They’ve got a different set-up, they’ve got a new head coach in charge [and] Tom Sermanni is now part of their women’s structure and we know that he’s amazing with what he does.
“Every game they’re getting better and better. They’ve just signed a Philippines international (Sarina Bolden) this week as well. They’ve been struggling to score goals too so she’ll help with that.
“We know it’s a bottom of the table clash right now [and] it’s big for both teams, but we just have to stick to our process. We have to trust what we’re doing and the outcome will come from that so that’s been the big message.”
Both Wellington and Western Sydney have each scored only two goals from their five matches, while the Phoenix have conceded 13 to Wanderers’ 9.
“Both teams have been struggling and I’m sure they’ve been doing a lot of work in the final third as well,” Lawrence said.
“We’ve conceded a decent amount of goals so they’ll look at that as a real target for them and same for us.
“Hopefully we’ll have a bit of a goalscoring spree but we want to just get some points.”
It is the women’s first match in more than two weeks after their seventh round fixture against Adelaide United was postponed due to a heat wave in Australia.
“What that allowed us to do was give the players a couple of days off over Christmas just to help them reassess, refresh and recharge heading into this game.
“We’ll let the performance do the talking tomorrow but hopefully it’s come at a good time and it’s allowed us to do what we want to do and achieve this season.
“It’s been a crazy year for the players, a crazy year for us so having a little bit of a reset is going to help for sure.
“The girls would have watched Western Sydney play a lot. We’re ready to host them here and hopefully start the year off really strong.”
Goalkeeper Lily Alfeld has trained with the team this week but isn’t quite ready to return from a knee injury, which has seen the club captain miss the Phoenix’s opening five matches.
Centre back and vice-captain Kate Taylor (ankle injury) and Alyssa Whinham (personal reasons) also remain unavailable for selection.
The eighth round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 12:20pm (10:20am AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 & 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 1 March 2022 – Western Sydney Wanderers 2 Wellington Phoenix 3
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 1W, Wanderers 0W & 1D.
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).
Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1. Jordyn BLOOMER (gk), 4. Angelique HRISTODOULOU, 5. Lauren KEIR, 6. Amy CHESSARI, 7. Amy HARRISON, 8. Olivia PRICE, 9. Sophie HARDING, 10. Sienna SAVESKA, 11. Danika MATOS, 13. Jitka CHLASTAKOVA, 14. Clare HUNT (c), 15. Cushla RUE, 16. Malia STEINMETZ, 17. Sheridan GALLAGHER, 18. Bethany GORDON, 19. Sarina BOLDEN, 20. Shamiran KHAMIS (gk), 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS, 23. Ella ABDUL MASSIH, 25. Holly CASPERS, 26. Aimee HALL (gk).