The Wellington Phoenix are hoping Newcastle will prove to be a happier hunting ground this Isuzu UTE A-League season.
The Phoenix have crossed the Tasman for the first time this season to play the Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday evening.
They were beaten 4-0 in both of their matches against the Jets in Newcastle last season.
“Coming to Newcastle is never easy,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media on Friday. “We had some poor results last season here in Newcastle against them, but it’s a new season and this is an opportunity to rectify that.
“I think the players are in a good space and I think it’ll be a cracking game.”
Talay and his players are undaunted about playing away from home, having spent the best past of two and a half years in Australia.
“The team has been away for such a long time. The group is a resilient group. We’ve got a core group of those players from those last two seasons who are still here at the club.
“Home or away we’ll still play the game we want to play. We’ll have a game plan to play Newcastle.
“They’re a very good side, a very energetic side, and a very high pressing team. We need to find solutions on how to break them down, and also stop them in the way they play.”
The Phoenix will come up against three of their former team-mates on Saturday evening, with Reno Piscopo, Jaushua Sotirio and James McGarry having joined the Jets in the off-season.
Piscopo and McGarry started the Jets’ opening game against Perth Glory last weekend, while Sotirio came off the bench to set up Newcastle’s stoppage time winner.
“Jaushy did some fantastic things for us during his time at Wellington Phoenix, Jimmy and Reno as well,” Talay said.
“For me they’re three good individuals and quality players at the same time.
“We know Jaushy’s threats on the counter. He’s a very quick player…but for us it’s always about what we do most importantly; how can we stop them when they have the ball and how can we exploit them when we have it.”
The men travelled to Newcastle without on loan fullback Lucas Mauragis, who has been deemed ineligible to play against his parent club.
Sam Sutton is in line to make his first start of the season in Mauragis’ absence, while the young Australian will instead get some minutes for the reserves in their National League Championship match against Christchurch United on Saturday afternoon.
“I think he’d be disappointed. Every player wants to play,” Talay said.
“Sutts (Sam Sutton) was injured so Lucas started the season [at left back]. I’m sure he would have liked to have continued playing and now Sutts will come in and if Sutts does well Lucas knows that he has to fight to get his spot back again.
“Sutts has done well whilst he’s played in that role. He has done some terrific stuff.”
The Nix are searching for their first win of the season after draws in the opening two rounds.
Talay says “there’s always room to improve”.
“Coaches are never happy. We can always do more, we can always be better.
“We’re heading in the right direction. We just need some more consistency from the new boys and more playing time together. I think that’ll help the group.”
The third round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets is scheduled to kick-off at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle at 7:00pm NZT (5:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 18 March 2022 – Newcastle Jets 4 Wellington Phoenix 0
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 23W, Jets 15W & 6D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 35. Noah KARUNARATNE, 36. Riley BIDOIS, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk)
Unavailable: 10. David Ball (injured), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS (ineligible to play parent club), 14. Alex RUFER (injured), 31. Yan SASSE (suspended)
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 2. Dane INGHAM, 3. Jason HOFFMAN, 5. Matthew JURMAN (co-captain), 6. Brandon O’NEILL (co-captain), 7. Trent BUHAGIAR, 8. Beka DARTSMELIA, 9. Beka MIKELTADZE, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 14. Mohamed AL-TAAY, 17. Kosta GROZOS, 18. Daniel STYNES, 19. Callum TIMMINS, 20. Michael WEIER (gk), 23. Rory JORDAN, 24. James MCGARRY, 25. Carl JENKINSON (co-captain), 26. Archie GOODWIN, 30. Noah JAMES (gk), 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Mark NATTA.
Unavailable: 4. Jordan ELSEY (suspended)