Liberty A-League Round 17 Match Preview

The Wellington Phoenix are determined to turn their improving Liberty A-League form into points.

The Phoenix have picked up five of their six points from their last five matches, with a win, two draws and two defeats.

Both of those losses were by just one goal. It’s in contrast to their opening five games, which were all defeats and three were by a three-goal margin.

Assistant coach Callum Holmes says frustration is the overall feeling after giving up a lead to draw 1-1 with Brisbane Roar last week.

“We actually had the most shots the team has ever had in the A-League,” Holmes told media on Thursday. “So to have 20 shots, 13 of those inside the box, and to only come away with one goal, after making a big emphasis on scoring goals and finishing those chances, was a bit frustrating.

“But the performance on a whole was up their with one of the best we’ve had this season.

“When you look across all the stats…it was the best ever in eight different categories like possession, progressive passes and forward passes.

“The progression of the team is really, really good and now it’s just that final piece and making sure in the last five games we’re taking advantage of it.”

On Saturday afternoon the Nix start their final five game stint of the season by visiting Sydney FC, who prevailed 1-0 in an evenly contested match at North Harbour Stadium less than a fortnight ago.

The Sky Blues sit atop the ladder after beaten Western United 3-0 in a top of the table match last weekend.

But the result has come at a cost with their captain Natalie Tobin suspended and fellow centre back Charlotte McLean and goalkeeper Jada Whyman injured.

“When you have starting players out that are playing regularly it’s always helpful,” Holmes said. “But you look at the players they may bring in at centre back and one’s just retired from international duties with the Football Ferns (Anna Green) and the other one has just come back off playing for Ireland (Deborah-Anne de la Harpe) so they’ve got depth in their squad.

“I think it’s going to be a tough game. We’ve got ways that hopefully we can capitalise, but we’ll see how it goes.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 26: Paige Satchell of the Phoenix is tackled by Natalie Tobin of Sydney during the round 15 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at North Harbour Stadium, on February 26, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

The Phoenix are hopeful back-up goalkeeper Georgia Candy will be able to return, after suffering a concussion on the eve of last month’s match against the Sky Blues.

“Candy’s got to tick a few boxes…same as what Betsy (Hassett) did last week so hopefully we can have her back.”

Club captain Lily Alfeld and midfielder Isabel Gomez remain side-lined with injuries, while defender Claudio Cicco remains with the Young Matildas in Kyrgyzstan.

Callum Holmes has taken charge at training this week with head coach Natalie Lawrence in Auckland starting her OFC pro coaching licence.

“For the confederation to put the pro licence on during the only professional team’s games is a bit bizarre, but for her to progress and continue as a coach it’s a really good thing.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 22: Coach Natalie Lawrence of the Phoenix looks on 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)

Holmes says nothing has changed for the team at training and he’s “in constant communication with Nat”.

“We speak daily – in the morning before I get there…we review the day together, and then little messages here and there.

“We chat a lot. She’s across everything. It’s not like I’m making all of the decisions. That’s not the case at all.”

Lawrence will join the squad in Sydney on Friday and will take charge of the team on Saturday.

The 17th round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC is scheduled to kick-off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney at 5:00pm (3:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 & 9 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.

Most recent A-League meeting: 26 February2023 – Wellington Phoenix 0 Sydney FC 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Sydney 3W & 0D

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, 22. Georgia CANDY (gk), 55. Corina BROWN.
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (injured), 17. Claudia CICCO (international duty).