Liberty A-League Round 4 Match Preview

The Wellington Phoenix hope Porirua Park can become “a little fortress” for them during the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

The Phoenix will play their first match at their new second home on Sunday afternoon, when they play host to last season’s beaten finalists Western United.

They are scheduled to play a further five of their remaining seven home matches this campaign at Porirua Park.

Head coach Paul Temple is looking forward to the change of scenery.

“We actually had a few seasons with the men’s reserves there at Porirua Park and it was always great,” Temple told media on Friday. “The pitch is nice, it’s had a revamp since the World Cup…so it should be a good surface.

“But I’m really looking forward to the tighter crowd and the stand being close. Hopefully if we can get 2,000 people there, pack the grandstand out and get some atmosphere around the pitch then it will hopefully become a little cauldron for us, a little fortress.

“It’s going to be really cool to play there and I’m excited about the atmosphere that it can create. Hopefully the fans feel the same and they can make some noise and help us.”

The Nix have won back-to-back matches for the first time in the women’s team’s short history and their performances have caught the eye with their new “small ball” philosophy.

“It’s become a bit more of a talking point than I thought,” Temple said. “It’s the way we’re describing how we want to try and play.

“It’s about players being in tighter spaces and being able to make shorter passes and be able to build through shorter passes rather than through longer, expansive passes.

“We’ve called it small ball – smaller spaces, smaller passes and the ball moves quicker.

“It’s a principle of the way we want to play and will really influence the style in which we’re going to play.

“I think we’re starting to see more and more of it. It’s been a gradual process but over the three games there’s more and more time in the game where we have that kind of control of how we want to play. We are going to keep building that and hopefully you’ll see that evolving.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 04: Annalie Longo of the Phoenix celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the A-League Women round three match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium, on November 04, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

After a first up defeat in Perth, Western United bounced back with a win over Melbourne Victory in round two before drawing with Melbourne City last weekend.

“They’re one of the better sides in the competition based on them making the grand final in their debut season.

“We’re going to have to be at our best to get points against teams like Western United.

“I think we’re very aware of what they’re going to bring. They’re strong, physical, have been good on the counter-attack this season and they don’t know when they’re beaten, they keep going and going.”

But the Phoenix are far from daunted.

“We’re looking at every opposition now for weak points and saying ‘this is what we can do to hurt them. Let’s focus on what we’re doing against their system and structure and let’s focus on us winning the game, and them spending more time worrying about us’.

“That’s the key message we’ve been giving to the players all season. We believe we can beat anyone, so we’ve got to do what we do well and hopefully we’ll get the result.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 04: Grace Wisnewski of the Phoenix looks on after sustaining an injuryduring the A-League Women round three match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium, on November 04, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Paul Temple will be forced to make at least one change to his starting XI as a result of Grace Wisnewski’s season-ending knee injury.

Captain Annalie Longo is an option after she marked her long-awaited club debut with a stunning goal, but Longo herself is still returning to full fitness after suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last year.

“We’ve got to consider she’s come off the back of the ACL and got back very quickly for the World Cup, and while she was able to play she didn’t have long minutes so we’re just going to be cautious in getting her back to 90 minutes.

“The best thing for her is that we still make sure…we’re not rushing that process too much, because we want her for the long-term.

“I would imagine 45 to an hour is what we’ll see and then we’ll keep building from there.”

Annalie Longo celebrates scoring her debut goal for the Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photmac.

Canadian goalkeeper Rylee Foster is also a chance of returning to the XI after missing last week’s match against the Brisbane Roar with a strained Achilles.

“She was out training today fully…diving around, bringing the personality back so it’s really good. It’s great to have her back.

“We’ll just have to see how she holds up after today and then we’ve still got another session tomorrow and we’ll back the call then.”

The fourth round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western United is scheduled to kick-off at Porirua Park in Wellington at 4pm (2pm AEDT) Sunday. Tickets are available here. The match will also be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 5 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
7 January 2023 – Western United 1 Wellington Phoenix 0

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Western 2W & 0D.

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, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, (c), 16. Annalie LONGO, 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk), 23. Rebecca LAKE.
Unavailable: 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 19. Liv INGHAM (injured).

Western United squad (four to be omitted)1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI, 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 7. Kiara DE DOMIZIO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 12. Lucy RICHARDS, 13. Avaani PRAKASH, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Grace MAHER, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Keiwa HIEDA, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO, 26. Natalie PICAK (gk).
17. Raquel DERALAS (injured), 34. Catherine ZIMMERMAN (injured).

Main image: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

WPX vs Brisbane Roar Highlights (RD 3)