Liberty A-League Round 16 Match Preview

Being more clinical in front of goal is a focus for the Wellington Phoenix as they endeavour to avoid the Liberty A-League wooden spoon.

The Phoenix sit five points adrift at the bottom of the table heading into Saturday evening’s match against seventh-placed Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium.

The Nix have registered one win and two draws to date, with five of their nine defeats by just one goal.

After breaking through by scoring eight goals in two games at the end of January, Wellington have been held scoreless in their past two matches against Western Sydney and Sydney FC.

“We spoke a lot this week about us in front of goal and finishing chances,” Phoenix assistant coach Callum Holmes told media on the eve of the team’s match against Brisbane.

“I think just when we get those chances, and we’re creating more and more now, that we take them.

“And I think if we do that, the game changes. I think if we can be a little more clinical in the final third, a little bit more ruthless in that part of the game you’ll start to see things change.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 29: Emily Clegg of the Phoenix is congratulated by team mates after scoring a goal during the round 12 A-League Women’s match between Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix at AJ Kelly Park, on January 28, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Phoenix came from two goals and a player down to draw 3-3 with Brisbane Roar at the end of January and the team is driven to avoid the wooden spoon for the second straight season.

“We want to get off the bottom. We’ve got a couple of games in hand on teams above us so hopefully we can do that.

“We haven’t spoken about it as a group, but you can get the sense that’s what everyone wants.

“Three points this weekend means we beat our points tally from last year so that’s a goal we’re all looking forward to.”

Holmes says it’s been “really easy” to keep the players motivated.

“They’re such a great group to work with. They’ve got so much passion and drive.

“Being in Wellington has helped a lot and them being able to create to history in Wellington for Wellington has been really, really great.

“We haven’t really had to motivate them. They’re such a self-motivated group.”

The Nix are back at Sky Stadium for their first time since their breakthrough 5-0 win over Canberra United and the game is taking on extra meaning for the women as it’s the team’s Pride Celebration fixture.

The A-Leagues celebrated the diversity and inclusivity of the game last weekend and now it’s Wellington’s turn.

“It’s such a great initiative. As a team we’re very, very inclusive so for us it’s just business as usual but…now we can spread that word for other people.

“The A-Leagues is doing a great job. Last week you saw how great it was across Australia and we’re all looking forward to being a part of that this week.

“There will be a few little things around the stadium and that the team will do that really celebrate that.”

Club captain Lily Alfeld and midfielder Isabel Gomez remain unavailable with injury, but Holmes is hopeful Football Ferns midfielder Betsy Hassett will be able to return.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 22: Betsy Hassett of the Phoenix celebrates after scoring a goal during the round 11 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Canberra United at Sky Stadium, on January 22, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Hassett broke her nose in the Ferns’ second international against Argentina last week and sat out Sunday’s match against Sydney FC with concussion.

“Betsy is pretty much ready to go. She just needs to tick a few final boxes.

“You might see her in a mask, but it’s one of those things that if she gets hit, it’s going to hurt.”

Australian defender Claudia Cicco is unavailable for selection as she’s in Kyrgyz Republic with the Young Matildas, while Corina Brown remains with the squad as a replacement for back-up ‘keeper Georgia Candy, who’s out with concussion.

The 16th round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 5:40pm (7:40pm AEDT) on Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport Select & 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.

Most recent A-League meeting: 29 January 2023 – Brisbane Roar 3 Wellington Phoenix 3

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Roar 1W & 1D

Wellington Phoenix squad:
2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Emma ROLSTON, 18. Te Reremoana WALKER, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER, 55. Corina BROWN.
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (injured), 17. Claudia CICCO (international duty), 22. Georgia CANDY (gk) (injured).

Brisbane Roar squad: 
1. Isabella SHUTTLEWORTH (gk), 2. Annabel HAFFENDEN, 3. Jessie RASSCHAERT, 5. Jamilla RANKIN, 6. Holly MCQUEEN, 7. Ayesha NORRIE (c), 10. Katrina GORRY, 11. Sharn FREIER, 12. Shea CONNORS, 13. Tamar LEVIN, 16. Zara KRUGER, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 19. Hollie PALMER, 20. Georgia BEAUMONT, 23. Kajsa LIND, 27. Indiah-Paige RILEY, 31. Aleeah DAVERN, 51. Hensley HANCUFF (gk), 78. Margot ROBBINE.
8. Mariel HECHER, 9. Larissa CRUMMER, 21. Mia BAILEY (gk).