Men’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets

Wellington Phoenix captain Alex Rufer has dismissed the team’s enforced two-and-a-half week break as a little bump in the road as the Nix look to continue their unbeaten run in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

The Phoenix ‘host’ Newcastle Jets at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday night, having last played on February 19, when they drew 1-1 with Sydney FC to make it six straight league matches without a defeat.

Their two fixtures since against Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City have been postponed as a result of the extreme wet weather which has hit New South Wales and Queensland over the past two weeks.

“For us nothing’s changed,” Rufer told media on the eve of the match. “Yes some games have been cancelled but that doesn’t stop our momentum, that doesn’t stop our confidence.

“It’s just a little bit of a bump in the road and now it’s down to us to keep that run going [and] to keep that momentum going.

“I’m confident in the team and I’m confident in the lads that we will do that.”

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay says the postponements have been “frustrating” and they are desperate to play again.

“You know we had a short turnaround of five games in 14 days and now we’ve two weeks of no games.

“Obviously we can’t control Mother Nature. It’s been raining for the last couple of weeks here and it’s still continuing at the moment, so fingers crossed we get to play this game on Wednesday night.

“It’s been challenging the last couple of seasons I’m not going to lie. But we can only focus on what we can control and it’s staying focused and hopefully we can play the game on Wednesday night and get back on a roll.”

The heavy rain and flooding has also limited the amount of time the players have been able to spend on their training pitch at Valentine Sports Park in Sydney.

The team have primarily trained on synthetic grounds in the past week and even used a futsal court on Saturday.

“Yesterday (Monday) we just went down to a local park and found some grass to work on,” Talay said.

“I’ve got to give it to the boys. It wasn’t the best pitch to train on but it was grass.

“Then the rain came down pretty heavy so it was flooded, but we got through the session the best we can.

“The boys have got a great attitude, which is great for me, and they get through the session and do the work that needs to be done.”

And while conceding the weather has hindered their preparations, Talay has put their challenges into context.

“If I look at what’s happening around the globe on the other side of the earth I think we’ve very fortunate people.

“These guys play a game that they love and actually get paid for it so the focus is there.

“Yea we have challenges but not challenges that are life threatening so I think the boys are pretty focussed and pretty keen to play some football.”

The Newcastle Jets beat the Phoenix 4-0 when the two teams last met in early December.

“We had a disappointing result last time we played Newcastle. I think there was a lot of learning moments from that game for our players,” Talay said.

The Jets were beaten 2-1 by top of the table Western United on Saturday and sit just three points behind the Phoenix. They’ve conceded the equal most goals this season, but only three sides have found the back of the net more than Newcastle.

“They’re a team that’s very chaotic, want to press all the time so we’ll find a solution on how we’re going to deal with Newcastle and hopefully we get a better result than we did last time against them.”

Ufuk Talay is unlikely to be able to call on attacking midfielder Reno Piscopo because of a calf injury, but veteran forward Gary Hooper may be available.

“Hoops we’re going to push a little bit this morning to see where he’s at. He really wants to be involved for tomorrow so hopefully he can get through and maybe we can use him as a substitute tomorrow evening.”

The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets is scheduled to kick-off at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford at 7:45pm AEDT (9:45pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE in New Zealand on Sky Sport 1 & 7 and in Australia on Paramount +.

Most recent meeting: 10 December 2021 – Newcastle Jets 4 Wellington Phoenix 0

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 22W, Jets 14W & 6D.

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
Unavailable: 10. Reno PISCOPO (calf injury)
Doubtful: 88. Gary HOOPER (calf injury)