The importance of having more than one home final is not lost on Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante.
Wellington Phoenix will have plenty to play for against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
Not only will third spot on the ladder be up for grabs – and all-important home advantage in the finals series – but skipper Andrew Durante will play his 100th game for the A-League club.
Durante arrived in the New Zealand capital in 2007 after winning the grand final with Newcastle and had no plans to stay beyond his two-year deal.
But five years on he has become a cornerstone at the club.
He has led them through the difficult period when previous owner Terry Serepisos’ financial problems threatened to bring the club down, to the stability they are enjoying now under new consortium Welnix.
“To play 100 games for a club is a great honour and to be captain as well makes it even more special,” the Australian said.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived but I have loved Wellington. I arrived on a two-year contract and had no plans to stay longer than that but the place, and the group at the club, grew on me.
“It is a great group of players. We had a lot of things that were out of our control going against us this season, but we haven’t let it show on the field.
“We’ve stuck together through some tough times and we deserve to be where we are.”
While a top four spot is guaranteed for the Phoenix – and home advantage in the first round of playoffs – victory over the Mariners, who need to win to be certain of lifting the Premiers Plate, would be the perfect boost going into the finals series following last weekend’s disappointing 3-0 loss to Melbourne Victory.
“Unfortunately we weren’t at our best against Melbourne Victory but we are back home now and teams don’t like coming here,” Durante added.
“It is great being in the semis but we want to be a grand finalist, and to that end it was important to get a home game to kick the final series off.
“I know our away form has improved this season but playing at home in front of a big, partisan crowd is important.
“But we can’t get sucked in by what we have achieved so far. We need to put in a good performance against the Mariners to get us in the right frame of mind for the playoffs.”