‘Pupils’ learn their lesson

SHOWED potential but must do better – if Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert were a school teacher that might have been his assessment of his “pupils” following the Phoenix’s season-opening draw with the Queensland Roar last weekend.

SHOWED potential but must do better – if Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert were a school teacher that might have been his assessment of his “pupils” following the Phoenix-s season-opening draw with the Queensland Roar last weekend.

While coming away with a point from the 1-1 draw at home despite a disappointing performance by their own high standards was heartening, the Phoenix know they will have to do more when they take on Melbourne Victory on Sunday.

To that end the Phoenix have done their homework leading into the clash at Westpac Stadium.

“It-s been a good week, the players have looked good and bright and we go into round two in a very positive frame of mind,” Herbert said.

“But there is honesty and reality around the team that we can do better and we will do better. It was good to get the season under way but we know we can do more right around the park and we-ll be looking to do exactly that against Melbourne. While the performance [against Queensland] wasn-t where we wanted it to be in its entirety, there were times we got the ball into good areas and the goal [by Shane Smeltz] was a good one.”

Moving the ball forward more effectively would be a key focus against the side the Phoenix dominated before losing in a marathon penalty shootout in the 2008 Pre-Season Cup grand final.

“We lacked a little bit of cohesion last weekend and if we can secure more of the ball in that middle third of the pitch against Melbourne then we give ourselves much more of a chance. Once we get at them, get the ball into the flank areas and utilise the pace of our players, then we can cause them some problems – just as we did in the final.”

Herbert has named an extended squad of 17 for Sunday-s match, with Leo Bertos and Leilei Gao bracketed with slight injury niggles.

“We might play slightly differently to what we did against Queensland with a bit of a tweak in formation to get more support forward into advance positions. So we-ll be looking for a bit more patience and to use wide players on the ball to get at the fullbacks and exploit the spaces that Melbourne can leave you.

“I think the front third can be a lot more exciting than what we saw last weekend. Fortunately we-ve got depth and quality this season and if we don-t have Leo and Leilei available then there are chances for other players. That-s the desire I want to see around the club and at the weekend.”

Skipper Andrew Durante echoed his coach-s sentiments that the players needed to step up on Sunday.

“We were disappointing in the first game of the season and that had a lot to do with some nerves in front of the home crowd and trying to do a little too much. But we know we-re a good team and we-re going to stick to our gameplan and show what we-re capable of.

“What was very positive last weekend was the character we showed to hit back pretty quickly after they scored and the conviction within the squad this week that we mustn-t be that disappointing again.”

Sunday 24 August
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Westpac Stadium
Local Kick-Off 5pm (3pm AEST)
Strebre Delovski

Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Richard JOHNSON, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain), 25. Manny MUSCAT.
* two to be omitted

In: Leilei GAO (return from injury), Ben SIGMUND (promoted).
Out: Nil.
Unavailable: Vince Lia (knee – season).

Melbourne Victory Squad: 2. Kevin MUSCAT (captain), 3. Michael THWAITE, 4. Steven PACE, 6. Steve PANTELIDIS, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9. Danny ALLSOPP, 11. NEY FABIANO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Jose Luis LOPEZ, 18. Leigh BROXHAM, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 30. Tommi TOMICH (gk)
* two to be omitted

In: Grant BREBNER, Tommi TOMICH (on loan).
Out: Nathan ELASI (National U/20 duties), Sebastian RYALL (National U/20 duties), Michael THEOKLITOS (injured ankle – 1 week).
Unavailable: Archie THOMPSON (ankle – 1 week), Daniel VASILEVSKI (hip – 3 weeks), Nick WARD (calf – 1 week).

Head-to-head: All matches (played 3): Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Melbourne Victory wins 1 (2 draws). In Wellington (played 1): Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Melbourne Victory wins 0 (1 draw).