The Wellington Phoenix take on top-of-the-ladder Central Coast Mariners tomorrow night, as they look to get on track by picking up their first win of the season.
In three matches this season, the Phoenix have suffered narrow losses to Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets – despite dominating play for the majority of both these matches – and drew 1-1 with Macarthur FC in a contentious match that featured Alex Rufer being sent off thanks to a dubious red card.
Wellington will welcome the return of Rufer to the line-up for this match following his one-match suspension, but the team will have to wait further – possibly the following match versus Sydney FC – for Reno Piscopo’s long-awaited season debut.
Wellington Phoenix centre back, Luke DeVere, says he knows the squad has to improve defensively against Central Coast – and he believes they can make the adjustments necessary.
“There’s definite some positives there [from our last match] so if we can tighten things up that’ll put us in good stead,” says DeVere.
“If you look at the two goals we gave up [versus Newcastle] they’re both from counterattacks, the Macarthur goal from the other week is a similar sort of thing in those transition moments – that’s probably what’s hurt us most in recent weeks.
“But again that’s something that’s quite preventable and we can address this quite easily, so hopefully we can cut those sort of opportunities out for the opposition in the future.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Phoenix captain Ulises Dávila.
“We have to improve and it’s the job of everyone in the team to try to avoid these goals and to also score the options we create,” says Davila.
“The new players in our squad are doing well, you can see them working hard in training and we all just have trust in the process – as well as the coach, club and the staff – and fix a few things up so we can get back on track.”
The Central Coast Mariners currently sit on the top of the A-League ladder after four matches played, with wins over the Newcastle Jets, Macarthur FC and Sydney FC; their only loss coming against Western Sydney Wanderers in Match Week 4.
The Mariner’s win versus Sydney FC stands out as their most impressive as it was their first away win in seven years against them; another sure sign this squad has turned a corner since last season’s bottom-place finish.
Much of the Mariner’s success comes down to their goalkeeper, Mark Birighitti, who has made 14 saves this season and keep a remarkable three clean sheets in their four matches. Goal scoring continues to be an issue for Central Coast though, with the team averaging one goal per match – although 19-year-old forward Alou Kuol has netted two of those goals.
DeVere says that given Central Coast’s surprise improvement this season, the Phoenix are under no illusion that their match versus Central Coast will be “a tough game” – and that the hungry Nix squad are more than up for the challenge.
“We’re desperate for points now and we want to get a win under our belts, so it should be a good game.”
The Wellington Phoenix takes on the Central Coast Mariners tomorrow night at Central Coast Stadium from 4.05pm AEDT (6.05pm NZ Time).
Did You Know?
- Wellington Phoenix have won their last five A-League matches against the Mariners; a sixth consecutive win against them would equal the Phoenix club record for most consecutive wins against a single opponent (6 vs Newcastle Jets from 2010 to 2012).
- Central Coast have won only one of their past 10 matches at Central Coast Stadium (D2, L7) and have lost their last two home matches against the Wellington Phoenix.
- Wellington Phoenix currently sits first equal in the competition in passing accuracy with 84%; Central Coast Mariners rank last in this category at 75%.
At a Glance:
Date: Sunday, 31 January 2021
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEDT / 6.05pm NZ Time
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
– Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 6:00pm (AEDT)
– Sky Sport 7 (New Zealand)
– Kayo Sports (www.kayosports.com.au)
– MyFootball Live App, Live Fast and Data Free for Telstra mobile customers
Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS
**2-3 to be omitted**
Ins: 14.Alex RUFER (return from suspension), 19.Sam SUTTON (promoted)
Unavailable: 7.Reno PISCOPO (calf injury, 1 week)
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 5.Stefan NIGRO, 6.Gianni STENSNESS, 7.Stefan JANKOVIC, 8.Oliver BOZANIC (c), 10.Daniel DESILVA, 11.Jack CLISBY, 12.Marcos UREÑA, 14.Daniel BOUMAN, 15.Kye ROWLES, 19.Matt SIMON, 20.Adam PEARCE (gk), 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 22.Michal JANOTA, 23.Dan HALL, 25.Matthew HATCH, 26.Jaden CASELLA, 29.Alou KUOL, 30.Jordan SMYLIE, 32.Max BALARD
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 7.Stefan JANKOVIC (Promoted), 22.Michal JANOTA (Promoted), 32.Max BALARD (Promoted)
Outs: 4.Joshua NISBET (Injured – Ankle)