The Wellington Phoenix are determined to finish their second Liberty A-League season on a high.
The Phoenix host reigning champions Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with plenty on the line for both sides.
The Nix can avoid a second straight wooden spoon with a win, while Victory need three points to secure a place in the finals.
Despite having the opportunity to move off the bottom of the ladder, Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence says it hasn’t been talked about within the team this week.
“We haven’t really spoke about to be honest,” Lawrence told media on the eve of the match. “It was something that was used a lot as motivation for the Perth and Newcastle games and maybe that added a bit of unnecessary pressure, I’m not sure.
“The messaging before Adelaide was ‘we have nothing to lose and everything to gain’ so that’s our messaging.
“Victory have got to win tomorrow as well so I think it’s going to be a pretty great game.
“We’re happy with how we’re playing at home so we want to keep that up.
“We want to finish on a high and if that means getting off the bottom of the league than that’s the ideal situation for us.”
The Nix are aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time in the team’s fledgling history, having upset Adelaide United 3-1 in South Australia on Tuesday night.
Lawrence says the win over Adelaide was massive for the team.
“After being away for five or six days and the heartbreak of the Newcastle game to then put up a performance and get the win against Adelaide. Our first points against them and in Adelaide.
“There was such a good vibe before the game. Everyone just brushed themselves off and was like ‘we can still do this, we’ve made it harder for ourselves, but it’s still in our hands slightly’.”
Wellington can also play spoiler and potentially end Victory’s reign as champions.
“That’s always a nice thing in football if you can spoil someone’s party, but our messaging for Adelaide was ‘it’s back to basics, bring it back to us’ and that’s what we’ll do this weekend.
“If that means we spoil their party, we’ll spoil their party and we’ll have our own, but we’re fully motivated to finish the season strong.”
Regardless of the result on Saturday afternoon, Lawrence believes their season can still be deemed a success.
“People may disagree because it’s a results-based business. The goal was always to not finish bottom and that has to ultimately still be our aim.
“I look at the core of the squad and what football we’ve managed to produce and I do see that as success and I do see that as something that is really exciting to build on.
“Put all of that possession, all of the times we’ve attacked the number of times we’ve got into the box into goals and we’re having a very different conversation today.”
Natalie Lawrence has 20 fit players fighting for places in the starting XI and 16-strong matchday squad, with club captain Lily Alfeld and midfielders Alyssa Whinham and Isabel Gomez the only players unavailable for selection.
Injury replacement Emma Main impressed in her debut on Tuesday debut, providing the incisive pass for Milly Clegg’s first goal, and is in contention to feature again.
“Em offers us something a little bit different. She is super composed on the ball and the occasion of making her debut didn’t overwhelm her.
“She’s definitely in the conversation to continue in the 16. We need goals to win games and we need goals to beat Victory and she’s somebody we feel can score or create like she did on Tuesday.”
Georgia Candy also made her debut against Adelaide, but Brianna Edwards is likely to return in goal against Victory.
“It’s a little bit of a battle between them but I look at Bri and how she’s developed throughout the season from that first game to now where she’s put her stamp on that position as our number one goalkeeper.”
The 20th and final round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 12:15pm (10:15am AEDT) on Saturday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 4 December 2022 – Melbourne Victory 1 Wellington Phoenix 0
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Victory 2W & 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, 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), 25. Emma MAIN.
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (injured), 10. Alyssa WHINHAM (injured).
Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Casey DUMONT (gk), 2. Tiffany ELIADIS, 3. Claudia BUNGE, 5. Jessika NASH, 6. Beattie GOAD, 7. Gema SIMON, 8. Alana MURPHY, 9.C atherine ZIMMERMAN, 11. Natalie TATHEM, 14. Melina AYRES, 15. Amy JACKSON, 16. Paige ZOIS, 17. Maja MARKOVSKI 18. Kayla MORRISON, 19. Lia PRIVITELLI, 20. Miranda TEMPLEMAN (gk), 22. Ava BRIEDIS, 23. Emily KOS, 27. Rosie CURTIS.
Unavailable: 21. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT (injured).