The Wellington Phoenix can climb to third in the Isuzu UTE A-League on Tuesday night, just three days after having their pride dented by Melbourne City.
The reigning champions beat the Phoenix 6-0 on Saturday evening to move five points clear at the top of the ladder and drop Wellington to seventh.
But the Nix can jump above Macarthur FC, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Adelaide United if they beat Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Head coach Ufuk Talay addressed his players when they reviewed the Melbourne City defeat.
“The biggest thing that I said that would have hurt them was their pride,” Talay told media on Monday.
“Performance-wise I don’t think we were poor. I thought the game was okay; the way that we played with the players that we had on the park.
“That’s in the past and we learn from mistakes and hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes moving forward.”
Talay was without nine squad members due to injuries and COVID-19 on Saturday, with four players testing positive on Friday.
“The main thing for us is that no one else gets exposed to it because if we get another three, four players exposed to it we’re going to very, very light on players for these games and we need to back-up.
“No one’s tested positive in the last couple of days which is a positive for us.
“The guys that have got it have got very mild symptoms, which is [also] a positive.”
The Phoenix will still be without at least eight squad members for Tuesday’s match against the Mariners, but Talay has no plans to change the way they play to suit the players he is able to call on.
“If these are the players we want to move forward with they need to be exposed to playing in the system that I want to play.
“I think changing it up and coming up with new ideas doesn’t help the group.
“We believe that the success that we’ve had is in the style that we play and I think that’s what’s going to get us out of this bad moment from the last game.”
He is hopeful Jaushua Sotirio will be able to feature against Central Coast, with the pacy forward having made a faster than expected recovery from a hamstring injury.
“Way earlier than what’s expected. He’s been tracking well which is great for us.
“He’ll still be limited in minutes for the game but it’s a positive for us that he’ll be possibly available for the game tomorrow.
“If he’s available for the game we’ll try to get him some minutes to build him back up.”
Experienced defender Tim Payne will return to the Phoenix XI on Tuesday night, after sitting out their past three matches while he helped the All Whites win the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.
“At this time my thoughts are to play him as a central defender alongside Scotty [Wootton] for this game,” Talay said.
“I’m not saying that Finn [Surman] had a bad game but I think he’ll give us the legs that we need there.
“I think we need that experience in the backline for this game.”
The Nix have also called up reinforcements from the club’s academy to ensure they are able to field a full 18-man matchday squad in Gosford.
Forward Riley Bidois and midfielder Luis Toomey joined the squad in Sydney on Sunday after featuring for the Wellington Phoenix reserves in their 3-0 win over Petone FC on Saturday.
Bidois has scored in the reserves’ opening two Central League matches of the year, after finding the back of the net 16 times last season, while Toomey came off the bench for his first appearance of 2022.
Toomey scored a hat-trick in his previous match for the Phoenix reserves in December.
“We needed some numbers at the top end of the park and hopefully they can bring that,” Talay said.
The Mariners are unbeaten in their past six A-League matches and sit one place and four points behind the Nix on the ladder.
The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners is scheduled to kick-off at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford at 7:05pm AEST (9:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 27 November 2021 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Central Coast Mariners 1
All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 19W, Mariners 16W & 7D.
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, 36. Riley BIDOIS, 38. Luis TOOMEY, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER
Unavailable: 14. Alex RUFER (season-ending knee injury), 21. Joshua LAWS (ankle injury), 23. Clayton LEWIS (ankle injury), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM (hamstring injury), 88. Gary HOOPER (calf injury) and three other players are in isolation (COVID-19)
Doubtful: 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (hamstring injury)