The Wellington Phoenix are refreshed and ready to continue where they left off in the Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix had a bye last weekend after a frantic January in which they played five times on top of having half a dozen players feature in the Football Ferns matches against the U.S.A..
The Nix finished the month with a remarkable come-from-behind 3-3 draw with the Roar in Brisbane, a week after breaking through with a resounding 5-0 win over Canberra United in Wellington.
The players were given a few days off to recharge before returning to training last Saturday.
“Having the bye when we did, did worry us a little bit because we could see the momentum was in our favour,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence told media on Friday.
“I was worried about the momentum and whether that would shift the momentum slightly, but they’ve come back this week at training all guns blazing.
“I think that little bit of time to regather their thoughts and get rid of any niggles they may have had has really helped.”
And Lawrence doesn’t believe the break will halt their momentum.
“Obviously the test will be the game, but training this week has been really, really good. It’s been competitive, they’ve been full engaged, there’s intensity about them and there’s a different confidence.
“We’ve won a game quite convincingly and we’ve also come back against circumstances no one would ever expect.
“That kind of game gives you belief that no matter what happens in any game you know you can score goals and you know you can outwork any team with 10 or 11 players.
“There’s this sense of togetherness and belief within the group.”
Western Sydney Wanderers are this week’s opponents. The two sides played out a 1-1 draw in previous meeting on January 2.
Like the Nix, it was Wanderers’ first point of the season. Western Sydney have won three of six matches since, including knocking over top of the table Western United and second placed Melbourne City.
All three of their wins have come at Wanderers Football Park, the venue for Sunday’s game.
“They’ve got huge momentum as well so I think it’s going to be a great game,” Lawrence said.
Wellington have scored eight goals in their past two games after only finding the back of the net three times in their first eight matches of the season.
Natalie Lawrence believes her team has become “a little less predictable” in the final third and the players have “had more patience”.
“If you look at our first game of the season against Melbourne City we created more chances than we did in any game last season, but the chances are half chances rather than quality chances.
“We’ve talked a lot about that, and we’ve done a lot of work on our patience and decision-making in the final third to create more quality chances.
“I think against Canberra that’s exactly what we did and against Brisbane I don’t know whether the chances we created were full quality chances, where the xG is high, but we had the confidence to put those away. Whereas maybe at the start of the season we’re not having the confidence to take those shots.
“There’s just a bit more belief and composure in the individuals’ ability to be able to finish goals.”
There is increased competition for places up front this weekend with experienced forward Emma Rolston having served her two match suspension.
Attacking midfielder Alyssa Whinham is also nearing a return, having missed the team’s past six matches for personal reasons.
“Alyssa’s back training and she’s looking really good.
“She’s not quite ready for games yet. We’re just managing that return to play for her but we’re really happy with where she’s at.”
Centre back Kate Taylor is unable to play Western Sydney after being red carded against Brisbane and club captain Lily Alfeld remains unavailable for selection due to a back injury.
The 14th round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at Wanderers Football Park in Sydney at 5:00pm (3:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 2 January 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 1W, Wanderers 0W & 2D.
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 (c) (gk) (injured), 3. Kate TAYLOR (suspended), 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).