The Wellington Phoenix are riding high on confidence ahead of their first Isuzu UTE A-League match outside of New South Wales in 10 weeks.
The Phoenix face the Brisbane Roar in Redcliffe on Saturday evening, after extending their unbeaten run to seven matches with a 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets on Wednesday night.
All seven of the matches, which have netted five wins and two draws, have come in NSW, with the Nix having not left the state for an A-League match since losing 4-0 to Adelaide United on New Year’s Day.
It was the team’s fourth straight defeat in the league and a turning point in the team’s season.
“I didn’t think we were playing our best football early on, but I said that we would be competing up near the top half of the table and that’s starting to take shape,” Phoenix vice-captain Oli Sail told media on Friday.
“Hopefully we’re competing right at the top end of the table, because honestly on our day I’m not too sure many teams can beat the best Phoenix performance.”
David Ball’s 88th minute winner against Newcastle lifted the Wellington to sixth on the ladder and Sail believes “it was a really big win for us”.
“The character we showed with Bally’s late goal and bouncing back from those two [refereeing] decisions to take three points anyway was massive and a big statement from our group in terms of the rest of the season and what we’re about.”
Sail has drawn comparisons to their form in the second half of last season.
“Last year when we went on our 11-game unbeaten run those were the kinds of moments that we won and those were the games that we came away with points.
“It’s a big statement for a group as young as we’ve got, dealing with everything that’s going on, to be winning points there because that shows the true character of a team.”
Oli Sail knows the unbeaten run will come to an end at some stage but doesn’t believe a defeat would dent their confidence.
“The best teams don’t win every week. That’s the nature of football and a league…so it happens to the best. It’s an important mindset to have.
“There’s so much football to be played and in a short period of time too so we don’t really have time to think about a loss, which is a positive thing if you ask me.
“You’re always building for the next game, because at this stage of the season it’s only a few days around the corner.
“I don’t think a loss will set us back like it did last time.”
Sail has played a major role in the unbeaten run, making a string of quality saves to secure valuable points for the Phoenix.
“Much like the group, I’m playing with confidence as well.
“We’ve got a really solid structure in front of me and it helps knowing that the boys all know their roles really well and knowing what I’ll have to deal with.
“I’m full of confidence and playing well and long may that continue because there’s plenty more points to be won this season and hopefully I can contribute along the way.
“I’m very positive looking forward and I know that the best from myself is still yet to come so I’m hoping that the best comes in those big moments that New Zealand Football and the Phoenix need me.”
Sail, Clayton Lewis, Ben Waine and Ben Old will leave for Qatar on Sunday evening to represent the All Whites at the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament and will miss next week’s match against Perth Glory.
“Momentum’s a funny thing in football and we’ve got that going at the moment…so absolutely I’ll be disappointed to miss that game.
“It’s unfortunate the way it’s been structured this time. It’s been a bit of a logistical balancing act for everyone involved but I think missing one game was the best outcome of a bad scenario.”
Sail took a knock to his knee in the second-half of Wednesday night’s match, but it won’t keep him out of Saturday’s game against Brisbane.
“It’s absolutely nothing. It’s totally fine, just a knock.”
And the hip-flexor injury which side-lined Sail for seven weeks isn’t an issue either.
“The hip’s actually really good. The unfortunate break in games with the weather cancellations here actually gave me two weeks to finally get things right.
“Which is convenient timing given the busy schedule we’ve got coming up over the next couple of months or so.”
The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar is scheduled to kick-off at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe at 5:05pm AEDT (7:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE in New Zealand on Sky Sport 7 and in Australia on Paramount +.
Most recent meeting: 16 February 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Brisbane Roar 0
All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 9W, Roar 20W & 13D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 30. Henry GRAY (gk), 31. Kurtis MOGG, 32. George OTT, 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER