Although Wellington Phoenix’s record-equalling nine match unbeaten streak has ended at the hands of Brisbane Roar last weekend, the club’s resolve remains unchanged – with the squad now squarely focussed on taking down the visiting Newcastle Jets this Friday as they aim for a place in the top three.
This is the first time that the fourth-placed Phoenix have faced the Jets this season, with history looking to be squarely on Wellington’s side;the Phoenix have lost only two of their last nine Hyundai A-League games against the Jets (W5, D2) and have been particularly resilient at home, winning 13 of their last 16 games against Newcastle at Sky Stadium (D1, L2).
This includes winning their last four matches on the bounce against the Jets, in which they’ve outscored the Jets by a combined 13-2. Despite this, Coach Ufuk Talay says the team approaches every match with equal intensity and would be unwise to disregard this Newcastle side.
“Newcastle is not a team to take lightly; they played the Grand Final a couple of years ago, they’ve got some very experienced players and a team doesn’t just become bad overnight – so it’s a game we need to be very well prepared so we can go out and do the job.”
Adding to the drama, the Phoenix will be playing without three key midfield players for this match; with Reno Piscopo still overseas with the Australian Under 23’s, Alex Rufer not yet ready to return from the knee injury he suffered in Round 9, and midfielder Matti Steinmann serving a one match suspension after he was given his fifth yellow card of the season against Brisbane.
In addition, David Ball is still working his way back to full match fitness after suffering a hip flexor injury against Central Coast – the Phoenix happy that the injury wasn’t deemed more serious.
The Phoenix will look to their bench for support, with options in the midfield including Brandon Wilson and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi. Coach Talay says that the Phoenix’s bench has been an undisputed strength for the club this season.
“That’s why we have the depth in the team, Matti has played a very good role for us but this is an opportunity for some of our younger players like Brandon or Te Atawhai to step up and show what they can do.”
Newcastle come into this match with only two wins to their name this season, and are currently sitting last on the ladder. This is thanks in part to their recent form, where they haven’t won in seven games (6L, 1D) and suffered particularly harsh defeats to Melbourne Victory (0-4), Perth (2-6) and Melbourne City (0-4) – being outscored 14-2 against these teams.
But their side showed promise against top-of-the-table Sydney FC in Round 14, a 2-1 loss in their first match without departed coach Ernie Merrick.
With no clear goal scorer in the squad – Dimitrios Petratos is first with only three goals – the Jets are currently last in the Hyundai A-League in shot conversion at 8.2%; although they’re third in shooting accuracy, behind only Sydney FC and Perth Glory.
It’s in their passing game where Newcastle must improve in order to have a chance against Wellington, who are one of the top passing clubs in the Hyundai A-League. The Jets are ninth in passing accuracy and dead last in the accuracy of their crosses; in comparison the Phoenix are first and third in these respective categories.
Did you know?
• Newcastle’s 12 goals this season are the lowest in the competition; by comparison the Phoenix has scored 20 goals, good enough for fourth equal in the Hyundai A-League
• Ulises Davila has scored nine goals in 14 matches; four of these have been penalties and five in open play (2 outside the box and 3 inside), with 8 kicked off the left foot and 1 off the right
• Matti Steinmann has a dribble success rate of 86% this A-League season (18/21), the highest of any player to have attempted at least 20 dribbles
• Steven Taylor and Stefan Marinovic are the only two Phoenix players to have played every minute on the field this season.
At a Glance:
Date: Friday, 24th January 2020
Kick-off: 7.15pm NZT
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Broadcast (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix Squad
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9. David Ball, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Brandon Wilson, 13.Liberato CACACE, 17.Callan Elliot, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88. Gary HOOPER (2-3 to be omitted)
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (promoted)
Outs: 5.Matti STEINMANN (suspended – one match), 23.Walter SCOTT (injury – knee)
Unavailable: 7. Reno Piscopo (International Duty), 14.Alex RUFER (knee), 16.Louis FENTON (shoulder – season)
Newcastle Jets FC Squad
2.Bobby BURNS, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 9.Abdiel ARROYO, 10.Dimi PETRATOS, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 14.Kaine SHEPPARD, 16.Matt MILLAR, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 19.Kosta PETRATOS, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 28.Pat LANGLOIS, 32.Angus THURGATE, 40.Noah JAMES (gk), 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (1-2 to be omitted)
Ins: 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (return from injury), 19.Kosta PETRATOS (promoted)
Unavailable: 1.Glen MOSS (calf – 4-6 weeks), 8.Wes HOOLAHAN (ankle – 4 weeks)