Head coach Paul Temple believes there is much more to come from the Wellington Phoenix in the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix women have made their best ever start to a season, winning three straight matches, to sit third on the ladder heading into their fifth round match against Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Saturday night.
“We’ve been in good form and we’ve won a few games in a row, which is awesome for the confidence and the belief, but we’re a long way away from where I think we can get to as a fully functioning team,” Temple told media on Friday ahead of the team’s trip across the Tasman.
He was asked whether there are any areas the team needs to improve on.
“Almost everything,” Temple replied. “There are patches in games that we’re really pleased with and then there are others where we don’t have control of the game.
“We want more control of the game [and] we want more management of the game so we’re working on how we do that with the ball.
“Also, we’ve created a lot of chances in open play but haven’t executed because of decision-making and sharpness around those chances, so we’ve been working on a little bit of that as well.
“And you have to keep working on your set pieces because people figure you out, so you’ve got to come up with new ways of doing that.”
Three of the team’s first four matches have been in Wellington, with Friday’s flight just the team’s second of 12 trips to Australia this season.
“Being on the road is always tough for the Phoenix to do it every second week or so. It’s the extra bits that you don’t factor in like time at the airport before you fly. It drags out the travel process.
“All those things are something that I’m certainly learning about, but I think the squad are adjusting to.
“What gives us confidence is we went on the road and won two games in pre-season. We went on the road and won at Western Sydney. So, we know we can do it.
“I don’t think we can use the travel as an excuse as to why we wouldn’t win games. It’s part of being a successful team. You’ve got to be good on the road and at home.”
It is the team’s second trip to the Central Coast. The full squad spent a week in Terrigal at the start of October and played pre-season matches against the Newcastle Jets and the Mariners.
“I think that helps a lot. The trip up there, the bus ride, playing at the stadium – we’ve done that already.
“Those little things just provide the familiarity with the whole weekend so that helps.
“The pitch is great, the stadium is one of the best – it’s awesome to play there so we’re excited about going back.”
The Nix beat Central Coast 3-2 in their pre-season match in Gosford, but Paul Temple isn’t reading too much into that result.
The Mariners have made an impressive return to the A-League, picking up a win and a draw in their first three matches.
Temple believes Central Coast coach Emily Husband has “done a great job” building a team from scratch.
“She’s brought all of these people together, recruitment has been good, the team’s getting better every week but they’re very organised, very structured and very competitive.
“She’s tactically very organised and got them working in slightly different shapes defensively over the first few rounds.
“I think they’re doing a good job and I think it’s going to be a competitive match.”
He has a near full-strength Phoenix squad to pick from with midfielders Grace Wisnewski and Liv Ingham the only players unavailable due to injury.
Club captain Annalie Longo is close to starting her first match for the Nix after two appearances off the bench.
“It’s a process that we’re working through in collaboration with her because it’s not as easy as throwing her into the line-up.
“She has to be able to get to at least that 60-minute mark, which she was doing and then she had the slight injuries at the start of the season which have pulled that back. Once we get her to the hour mark then she can push to be a regular starter.
“But she’s doing a really good job and she’s having a really positive influence on sessions and on games when she comes on so we’re looking forward to having her out there more often.”
The fifth round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners is scheduled to kick-off at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford at 8pm (6pm AEDT) Saturday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent meeting: N/A
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Mariners 0W & 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).
Central Coast Mariners squad (four to be omitted): 2. Faye BRYSON, 3. Ash IRWIN, 4. Paige HAYWARD, 5. Annabel MARTIN, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 8. Bianca GALIC, 9. WURIGUMULA, 10. Rola BADAWIYA, 11. Annalise RASMUSSEN, 12. Jazmin WARDLOW, 13. Alexia KARRYS-STAHL, 14. Sophie NENADOVIC, 17. Kyah SIMON, 18. Taren KING (c), 20. Chloe CARMICHAEL (gk), 22. Peta TRIMIS, 27. Maya LOBO, 30. Courtney NEWBON (gk), 33. Tess QUILLIGAN, 92. Casey DUMONT (gk).