An important match for the Wellington Phoenix early in the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season.
The new-look Nix visit Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday evening to cap round two of the new campaign.
After starting the season with a narrow defeat to Melbourne City, the Phoenix need to pick up points to avoid losing touch with the top six.
“It’s huge for us,” Phoenix assistant coach Callum Holmes told media on Friday. “Obviously we don’t want to have a run of games where we’re losing. I think we started last season with six losses in a row.
“Winning’s a habit so we need to make sure we start that habit.”
The Nix have a good record against Wanderers. They have drawn two of their four previous meetings, one of which was on debut, and have also beaten Western Sydney.
Wanderers lost 2-0 to reigning champions Sydney FC in their season opener.
“We’re very confident going into the game after watching them back and watching the things we can do,” Holmes said.
“I think it’s just about putting our sequences of passes together. Everyone saw when we put those sequences of passes together (against Melbourne City), they were few and far between, but we actually caused them problems.
“It’s about making sure that we’re more consistent throughout the game and that’s been huge for us this week.
“If we can put into practice those things that we’ve worked on in terms of our sequences of possession then we’ll create more chances and score goals.”
Callum Holmes has been filling in for head coach Paul Temple this week, with Temple away on his OFC pro diploma coaching course.
“He’s actually in Wellington so we talk every day, multiple times a day.
“Of course, you want your head coach here. It is a slight disruption, but the girls and the staff have been great.
“We’re happy with our preparation leading into the game and he’s back tomorrow so at least he’s here for a session before we fly out.”
The Wellington Phoenix are again unable to call on captain Annalie Longo, who picked up an injury ahead of their opening match.
“Annalie’s going to miss out this week. With the international break coming up we think it’s best that we give her another week.
“It’s a long season now, 22 games, so she’s going to miss out and we’re hoping to have her back for round three.
“It’s tough for everyone, mostly for Annalie. It’s been 13/14 months she’s been trying to get on the field for this team, so it’s definitely frustrating for her, but we’re all in agreeance that we just need to make sure we’re in for the long haul.
“If we push her now then it’s going to be difficult for her to last the entirety of the season. She came back from the ACL very quickly and that’s led to a couple of things that have flared up. We just need to manage her a little bit and all will be well.”
The Phoenix coaches otherwise have a near full squad to pick from, with young winger Manaia Elliott available for selection, despite having to be replaced at halftime last Sunday.
“We took her off as a precaution…and she’s come back really well so she’ll be involved in some capacity this weekend.”
There will be no reunion with Milly Clegg on the pitch at CommBank Stadium.
The Football Ferns forward moved to Western Sydney Wanderers this year after a breakout season with the Wellington Phoenix, but isn’t allowed to play for Wanderers until she turns 18 next month.
Holmes is looking forward to catching up with Clegg.
“She’s a lovely young girl with great potential so we wish her all well after this weekend.”
The second round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at CommBank Stadium in Sydney at 7:45pm (5:45pm AEDT) Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 12 February 2023 – Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Wellington Phoenix 0
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 1W, Wanderers 1W & 2D.
Wellington Phoenix squad (four to be omitted): 1. Rylee FOSTER (gk) 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, (c), 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 23. Rebecca LAKE.
Unavailable: 16. Annalie LONGO (injured), 19. Liv INGHAM (injured).
Western Sydney Wanderers squad (two to be omitted): 1. Kaylie COLLINS (gk), 2. Vicky BRUCE, 3. Gemma FERRIS, 4. Madison MCCOMASKY, 5. Lauren KEIR, 6. Amy CHESSARI, 7. Amy HARRISON, 8. Olivia PRICE, 9. Sophie HARDING, 10. Melissa CACERES, 11. Danika MATOS, 15. Cushla RUE, 17. India BREIER, 18. Maliah MORRIS, 20. Shamiran KHAMIS (gk), 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS, 23. Ella ABDUL MASSIH, 32. Bethany GORDON.