Liberty A-League Round 19 Match Preview

The finals start a month early for the Wellington Phoenix in the Liberty A-League.

The Phoenix face Perth Glory at Macedonia Park in Perth on Friday night, with both sides currently on the outside of the top six looking in.

The Nix are five points adrift of the last of the finals places with four rounds remaining, but have a game in hand over most of their rivals including the Glory, who sit narrowly outside the top six on matches won.

Head coach Paul Temple has described the match as “a classic six-pointer”.

“I don’t think there’s any real need to try and work around the truth of the matter here,” Temple told media via zoom from Perth on Thursday. “If we don’t win tomorrow night, we’re going to leave ourselves a really big mountain to climb in those last four weeks.

“It’s obviously still possible but to keep it in our own hands and to keep our destiny where we want it, we have to win tomorrow night.

“It feels like it is a big game. It feels like it is a must win. It feels like a good opportunity for us.”

Wellington’s struggles on the road have been well documented, with their one win in 2024 coming at Porirua Park in January.

Perth Glory too have slipped down the A-League ladder. They are winless this year with four wins and four draws.

“It’s two teams that have been struggling to pick up wins in the last few months so it’s going to feel like a real battle, a real fight.

“The message has been all week that we’ve got to be up for it and ready to go to put our best foot forward.

“If we show that, have the right mentality and the right physicality in the game then I think we’ll have the quality to win.

“But it’s probably going to feel exactly the same for them as well I’d imagine so there’s a lot riding on this one.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 3: Beattie Goad of the Victory celebrates with teammates during the A-League Women round 18 match between Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix at La Trobe University Sports Fields, on March 3, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Martin Keep/Getty Images)

The Phoenix are coming off a disappointing 5-3 defeat at Melbourne Victory, in which they trailed 4-0 at halftime, with two of the goals coming from corners after the first came from a cross.

“Generally speaking set pieces have been really strong for us this year. We’ve been good on attacking set plays and strong on defensive set plays so that was a little bit of a surprise.

“We were just not good on set plays at all, so we’ve critically analysed all of those. We’ve done some work since we’ve been in Perth, gone through every set play with the team and worked on that.

“Hopefully we’ve come up with the solutions and we can stop looking so vulnerable on the set plays, because it did feel like almost every corner there was something happening and it’s not a nice feeling when you’re like that.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 3: Victory players celebrate their win during the A-League Women round 18 match between Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix at La Trobe University Sports Fields, on March 3, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Martin Keep/Getty Images)

Temple believes they need to learn to deal with setbacks in their road matches.

“That’s something we’re looking to try and improve, [and] show more physicality and fight when we need to.

“When we’re not quite in the flow that we want to be in, we have to try and find a way to work our way into the game. We haven’t found the formula for that yet.

“It’s time for us to stand up because time is running out.

“We don’t believe we’re a team that deserve to be where we are on the table based on the ability we’ve got in the squad.

“I think we’re all feeling a bit hard done by there, but it’s up to us now.

“We’ve got to put things together and put some points on the board, and it all starts tomorrow night in Perth. We have to get something from this game.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 3: Mariana Speckmaier of the Phoenix celebrates a goal during the A-League Women round 18 match between Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix at La Trobe University Sports Fields, on March 3, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Martin Keep/Getty Images)

Top goal scorer Mariana Speckmaier is in line to return to the starting line-up, after coming off the bench against Victory and finding the back of the net for the eighth time this season.

“Mariana came through the game fine. She’s good. She’s available to start.

“She’s feeling pretty much 100%, just 90-minute match fitness is something we’ll still build up with her now, but in terms of the injury she’s good, no problems there.”

Club captain Annalie Longo sat out Sunday’s match, but is a chance of returning against Perth.

“Annalie’s working away in the background. We’ll make a decision tomorrow on whether or not she can be involved.

“It’s probably touch and go, 50/50, whether she can play a part or not.”

Emma Main (right) shares a joke with Hailey Davidson (left) and Ella McMillan at NZCIS last week. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

The round 19 Liberty A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory is scheduled to kick-off at Macedonia Park in Perth at 12am Saturday (7pm AWST Friday) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
25 November 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Perth Glory 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 1W, Glory 4W & 0D.

Wellington Phoenix squad
(four to be omitted):1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Isabel COX, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 23. Rebecca LAKE, 26. Tiana JABER, 27. Helena ERRINGTON.
Unavailable: 3. Kate TAYLOR (injured), 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured).

Perth Glory squad (four to be omitted): 1. Morgan AQUINO (gk), 3. Jessika COWART, 4. Natasha RIGBY (c), 7. Liz ANTON, 8. Hana LOWRY, 9. Millie FARROW, 10. Susan PHONSONGKHAM, 11. Grace JALE, 12. Sofia SAKALIS, 13. Sarah CAIN, 14. Tia STONEHILL, 17. Abbey GREEN, 18. Sadie LAWRENCE, 19. Izzy FOLETTA, 20. Quinley QUEZADA, 22. Claudia MIHOCIC, 23. Isobel DALTON, 24. Sally JAMES (GK), 28. Anika STAJCIC, 31. Clara HOARAU.
 16. Isabella WALLHEAD (injured), 25. Grace JOHNSTON (injured), 27. Georgia CASSIDY (international duty).

Main image: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.