The Wellington Phoenix take on the Newcastle Jets tonight, in the last game of a gruelling span of three matches played in seven days.
This will be a re-match of their Match Week 5 clash, in which the Jets took away a 2-1 win; Dávila scoring his first goal of the season on a penalty and Valentino Yuel and Roy O’Donovan registering goals for Newcastle on the counter-attack.
The presence of Jets goalkeeper Jack Duncan, who saved multiple shots on goal, was also a deciding factor in that January win; also notable was the absence of Alex Rufer and Reno Piscopo – due to suspension and injury respectively – for that clash.
The Phoenix look set to make several changes to the line-up that fell 2-0 to Melbourne Victory on Wednesday, with David Ball returning from suspension and Tomer Hemed set to return from injury.
Although the Phoenix will continue to rely heavily on Ulises Davila to score goals – he is second in the competition in creating scoring chances, with one every 19 touches – Wellington Phoenix Coach Ufuk Talay says the return of Ball and Hemed will help to ease the burden on the captain.
“Tomer will be available for this game, he brings a bit of experience in front of goal and what we need to do is get the ball in front of him so he can score those goals” says Talay.
“For us he’s a very important player – he’s a striker and they’re built on scoring goals and getting their confidence so when him and Bally start scoring their confidence will build and then that composure in front of goal will come.
“And Bally gives us a lot of energy; he’s a very energetic player who can play in multiple positions for us and he gives us a lot of forward runs – and for us and the way that we play, we need to stretch the opponent and we need players to run in behind.
“So Bally’s been a very important player for us, and he was very influential in our success last season.”
Talay has indicated he will likely continue with Oli Sail in goal, after two impressive showings by the 25-year-old in his last two matches. Talay will decide whether Tim Payne remains in the central defender role, allowing Louis Fenton to retain the starting right back position. Joshua Laws, who started the first six matches at centre back, could also be in line to reclaim his spot after sitting out the last two matches.
Meanwhile the Newcastle Jets are currently on a five-match unbeaten streak (3W, 2D) after starting their season 0-4; their most recent match a 1-0 win against Melbourne Victory. They have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last three matches, with Duncan playing a key role in the Jets conceding the lowest number of goals in the competition to date.
The danger man for the Jets is undoubtedly Yuel; after playing sparingly for Western United last season, the 26 year old winger has impressed in his seven starts for Newcastle this season, having been directly involved in five of the team’s last seven goals (4 goals, 1 assist).
All four of Yuel’s goals have been scored inside the box during open play (1 header, three off of the right foot), which indicates that the Phoenix will need to defend him well inside this area – especially after conceding a pair of headers to Melbourne Victory’s Rudy Gestede on Wednesday.
Talay says while fatigue is a factor, the Phoenix players are focused on the win tonight as they try to build momentum heading into March.
“We’re about to play our third game in seven days, and the boys haven’t done that in quite a long time – we haven’t been able to push them too hard because of this, so a lot of time has been the boys recovering to try to keep them fresh for this [Newcastle] game.”
“The game of football is about confidence, if you win a couple in a row then confidence builds and that’s what we need at this stage; we need a win against Newcastle to build that confidence.”
The Wellington Phoenix take on the Newcastle Jets tonight at McDonald Jones Stadium from 6.10pm AEDT (8.10pm NZ Time).
Did you know?
- Wellington Phoenix boasts an 88% passing accuracy in the middle third of the pitch this season, the highest of any team in his competition and seven percentage points better than that of the Newcastle Jets (81%).
- The Jets have struggled with their passing in the opposition penalty area, with their 30% mark the lowest of any team in the 2020/21 season.
- Although the Jets have won the past two matches against the Phoenix, they have only won two the past eight meetings prior to this (D2, L6)
- Both teams have scored a total of eight goals this season; the Phoenix have spread their scoring load across five players (Ball, Davila, Fenton, Muratovic and Sotirio) while the Jets have four players in the scoring column (Boogaard, O’Donovan, Thurgate, Yuel).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 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
Ins: 9.David BALL (return from suspension), 17.Tomer HEMED (return from injury)
Unavailable: 3.Luke DEVERE (knee injury, 10-12 weeks), 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO (knee injury, 4 weeks),
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 2.Johnny KOURTROUMBIS, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 9.Roy O’DONOVAN, 14.Ali ABBAS, 15.Tete YENGI, 16.Matt MILLAR, 18.Jack ARMSON, 17.Valentino YUEL, 19.Kosta PETRATOS, 21.Luka PRŠO, 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 23.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 24.Connor O’TOOLE, 26.Archie GOODWIN, 27.Lucas MAURAGIS, 32.Angus THURGATE, 33.Apostolos STAMATELOPOULOS, 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 18.Jack ARMSON (promoted), 22.Lachlan JACKSON (promoted), 15.Tete YENGI (promoted), 33.Apostolos STAMATELOPOULOS (promoted)
Outs: 11.Ramy NAJJARINE (ankle – 1 week), 3.Jason HOFFMAN (groin – 1 week)
Unavailable: 5.Ben KANTAROVKSI (calf – 2 weeks)