Midfielder Vince Lia is convinced the tide is starting to turn for Wellington Phoenix so far as their dismal away form in the Hyundai A-League is concerned.
Speaking before the team left for Australia to play Melbourne Heart in Morwell, South Victoria, on Sunday Lia said he expected the Phoenix to this season pick up more points on the road than they have in the past.
“I-ve been at the club since day one and I have to admit our away form has been awful,” Lia said.
“We tried everything over the past four years to change that scenario but nothing seemed to work.
“It has been a disadvantage for us having to cross the Tasman every couple of weeks, and maybe our poor showing was a combination of the travel and our mental approach.
“This season though there has been a big improvement and I think we-ve played really well on the road.
“Unusually we-ve lost a couple at home, but I-m backing us to pick up more points than normal away from Westpac Stadium.”
To back his argument Lia pointed to the draws at Gold Coast and Brisbane Roar and an unlucky loss to Perth Glory at nib Stadium.
“There won-t be many teams leaving Suncorp with a point and the lads did really well to grind that one out,” he said.
“It isn-t easy to put a finger on what has changed but I think we are now smarter when we travel.
“In the past we have tried to play the same away as we do at home. We aren-t doing that this season and it is paying dividends.
“The team we are now fielding is basically the same as last season and we are putting into practice lessons we have learned the hard way.”
A native of Shepparton in Northern Victoria, Lia will have plenty of support in Morwell despite his family having a long way to travel for the game.
“My aunty and uncle lived in Morwell for a while and are looking forward to going back,” Lia said.
“My mum and dad will be there and I-m sure there will be plenty of family support for Manny (Muscat) and Mal (Impiombato, football operations manager) as well.”
The only change from the Wellington Phoenix squad that beat Sydney FC 2-1 at Westpac Stadium last week is the return from injury of influential Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez.
Sanchez, who has missed the Phoenix- last three games after picking up a hip flexor injury in the warm up before the draw with Brisbane, is fit again and replaces Alex Smith who picked up a foot injury during Wednesday-s training.
The Wellington Phoenix squad is: Mark Paston, Tony Warner, Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante (captain), Tony Lochhead, Tim Brown, Vince Lia, Nicky Ward, Leo Bertos, Chris Greenacre, Paul Ifill, Dani Sanchez, Mirjan Pavlovic, Daniel.