Phoenix close to top form


Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert believes his side are close to hitting top form ahead of their clash against the Melbourne Heart.

Herbert’s men sit seventh in the Hyundai A-League – three points adrift of the Newcastle Jets – ahead of the crucial encounter at Westpac Stadium on Thursday.

Despite being winless in their past three outings, Herbert said the Phoenix were close to collecting a much-needed three points.

“We did some good things the other night (against Central Coast) and if we can keep building on that I don’t think we will be too far away,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll change the team, but there are things we need to be better on.

“We talked about the crossing, and the set play delivery in particular wasn’t where it needs to be so you’ll see someone else taking up that role tomorrow.”

Herbert is expected to stick with the same team that came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against the high-flying Mariners in New Zealand.

The Phoenix’s meeting with the Heart will be the second clash of four in 15 days for Herbert’s men.

Herbert said he was pleased with the way his squad was responding to the busy run of fixtures.

“This is a tough period, but it is exciting,” he said.

“Football through Christmas is pretty traditional now and being at home tomorrow night is a good chance to put down a marker.

“We’ve been careful with the players since Saturday to make sure we have a full squad to choose from and it appears to have worked.”

Heart coach John Aloisi will be without central defenders Simon Colosimo and Patrick Gerhardt for the encounter due to suspension.

But, having seen his team draw 1-1 at AAMI Park earlier this year with several first-team regulars missing, Herbert said he had little sympathy for the Heart.

“I’m sure they will wish those two were in but it is hard to feel sorry for them considering we had eight players missing when we played them in the first round,” Herbert said.

“They are a solid side and will feel hard done by that they didn’t get anything from the derby so we will need to be at our best.”