Defender Ben Sigmund and striker Chris Greenacre are the leading candidates to take the captain’s armband for Wellington Phoenix’s crucial Hyundai A-League match against leaders Central Coast on Saturday.
Regular captain Andrew Durante and vice-captain Tim Brown are both suspended for the match at Bluetongue Stadium after each was shown their fifth yellow card of the season in controversial circumstances in the 2-0 loss to Brisbane Roar.
Coach Ricki Herbert was fuming after that match at Westpac Stadium, lambasting the standard of refereeing, but was in a more conciliatory mood a day out from their departure to Australia for the match against the Mariners.
“I’ve got over it now. It was a 24 hour thing. We’ve just got to roll with the punches. Get on and get the results on the pitch now,” he said.
“What I’ve said to Mark Shields, the refereeing co-ordinator, is that we want a fair and equal chance. They make decisions and we have to accept those.
“As long as we get treated fairly and they listen to our feedback, the communications stay pretty strong.
“We closed the lid on it the other day in a formal and professional way and we’ll see what happens this week.”
He added: “At the end of the day we had chances we didn’t put away (against Brisbane). We’ve got to accept that. We’re certainly not shedding the blame onto anybody else. We’ve got to accept it and move on.”
Herbert was coy on just who would replace two of his most experienced players in defence and midfield.
While Manny Muscat, who was suspended for last weekend’s game, will return to the starting line-up Herbert hinted at a possible midfield role for the Maltese international which would leave Brent Griffiths as a possible starter at centre-back and Vince Lia remaining at right-back.
Midfielder Nick Ward, who has recovered from a hamstring strain, also comes back into the mix.
“Griff’s a good chance to play in the middle at the back,” said Herbert.
“Wardie has trained really well today. He’s got through his injury and he’ll travel.”
“Manny can play at right-back or we can put him back into midfield as well. Vinnie (Lia) can do a job still at right-back so we’ve got a couple of options there.”
“I think the shape that Central Coast play, we may just tinker a bit to hopefully give us a foot in the door.”
Despite the loss to the Roar, Herbert said confidence in the group remained high.
“(This game) probably hasn’t come at a bad time either to bounce back after the Brisbane game.”
“They are a good side but they’ve had a couple of losses on the bounce as well – one of those at home.”
“We don’t go there with any fear. I think we go with confidence.”
And Herbert turned the heat up further on the Mariners who have seen their lead at the top of the table cut to just five points.
“Brisbane are on their tails now for that minor premiership. They will be keen to get it having led for so long with such a big gap,” the Phoenix coach added.
“I think they will be desperate and sometimes when you’re desperate like that you’re not always in the right shape either.
“But they are a very solid group of players who work hard for each other and probably deserve to be where they are.”