Jason Pine ahead of Round 25
What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Phoenix fans in 2013/14. Ten winless matches to start the campaign were followed by seven victories in their next ten games which marked the Phoenix as true playoff contenders. But, as injuries and suspensions started to mount, just two points from the last four outings, including five-goal losses to today-s visitors Adelaide United and the Newcastle Jets last weekend have set the side back again. With just nine points left to play for, time is running out for the Phoenix to sneak into the top six.
It-s hard to remember a more wretched season with injuries for the Phoenix. The crowded casualty ward now contains five players with season-ending injuries; Paul Ifill, Louis Fenton, Albert Riera, Reece Caira, and Josh Brindell-South. Leo Bertos hasn-t been sighted since the end of January and Carlos Hernandez is continuing to be troubled by his calf strain. Any side in the A-League would struggle with that sort of injury toll and it-s something that just can-t be planned for.
Adelaide United have been infrequent visitors to Westpac Stadium in recent seasons. As the Phoenix started to take games on the road a few years ago, it has been the Reds who have seen more of New Zealand than any other A-League side, playing twice in Auckland and twice in Christchurch. Before last season-s 2-2 draw here in Wellington in round 22 (which just happened to be Ricki Herbert-s last game in charge of the Phoenix), Adelaide hadn-t played at Westpac Stadium since early September 2009.
One player who is always welcomed back to Wellington is Jon McKain. During his two seasons at the Phoenix (2008/09 and 2009/10), he initially helped shore up a leaky defence and was then a major part of the side-s run to the 2009/10 Preliminary Final. Before and after games against the Phoenix, he-s often found catching up with his former team-mates and is always generous with his time with fans and the media. It-s been great to see him playing such a major part in Adelaide United-s impressive season to date.