The Wellington Phoenix’s progress in the Liberty A-League will be put to the test in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.
The Phoenix are visiting Western United, who are the competition’s only unbeaten team eight rounds into the competition.
The Liberty A-League newcomers have won their opening five matches, including a 4-1 win over the Nix at Sky Stadium in round two.
But Wellington are buoyant after securing their first point of the season against Western Sydney Wanderers on Monday.
“We’ve had a great week,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence told media on Friday. “It’s been quite a short turnaround but we’re definitely taking confidence from that first point.
“We feel like we could have got more and that’s a credit to the group that we’re not just happy with that point.”
Lawrence acknowledges Saturday’s opponents are another step up.
“We know Western United’s threat. We know if they win they probably go top of the league, that they’ve got some quality players, but we also bring it back to that game we played against them and for 70-75 minutes we really competed.
“We had this 10 minute spell where we lost our heads and they punished us which is what those kind of players do.
“We’re going in confident. We’re not naïve, we know it will be tough, but there are a lot of positives that we can build on from last week and even back to the Adelaide game.”
The Nix also believe they can take some valuable lessons out of the 4-1 defeat to Western in November.
“Some of our goals we conceded were off transition and we’ve worked really hard collectively as a group to tighten up at the back. Especially in that defensive transition moment because they’ve got pace and a target nine and they’re able to clip those long balls in, so we have to be able to deal with that.
“We’ve worked a lot on our in-possession game too. We still need to score more goals. We’re still doing a lot of work on creating more quality chances and taking those chances.”
Lawrence says Western United have also improved since their meeting six weeks ago.
“They’ve changed, they’ve grown [and] they’re getting players back.
“It seems like (Chloe) Logarzo is playing more minutes every week and she’s a quality player and a quality Matilda.
“We can take stuff from the last game and then look at what we’ve done and what they’ve done in the lead-up so I think it’ll be a good game.”
Natalie Lawrence will be unable to call on experienced midfielder Betsy Hassett on Saturday.
She is a bridesmaid for fellow Football Ferns legend Rosie White. With White’s wedding in Auckland on Friday Hassett couldn’t make the trip to Melbourne.
Club captain Lily Alfeld, vice-captain Kate Taylor and attacking midfielder Alyssa Whinham all remain unavailable for selection.
“Lily and Kate are really close. I’m really hoping to have them both back for the trip to Perth. They’ve got programmes to do this weekend to get them ticking along.”
The ninth round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western United is scheduled to kick-off at City Vista Recreation Reserve at 3:00pm AEDT (5:00pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport Select & 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 26 November 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Western United 4
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Western United 1W & 0D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Saskia VOSPER, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 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).
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 3. Kate TAYLOR (injured), 10. Alyssa WHINHAM (personal reasons) , 11. Betsy HASSETT (on leave).
Western United squad: 1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 5. Aimee MEDWIN, 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 7. Francesca IERMANO, 8. Jessica MCDONALD, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Aleksandra SINCLAIR, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Sydney CUMMINGS, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO.
Unavailable: 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI (injured), 12. Harriet WITHERS (injured).