The sun is promising to shine on the Phoenix’s 150th A-League match as they take on Emile Heskey and the Jets at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Phoenix fans will be hoping the sun shines on their team in more ways than one when Newcastle Jets visit Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Home games have been dogged by inclement weather this season, but a sunny, calm day is on the cards this time and it is up to the team to light up the stadium further.
In seasons past the Phoenix have never been more dangerous than when their backs are to the wall and that is exactly where they are now, occupying bottom place after an encouraging start.
Such is the closeness of the Hyundai A-League however the Phoenix are only five points out of the playoff places and the climb towards that target has to start now.
Their cause will be helped by having Paul Ifill and Manny Muscat back in the starting line-up.
Ifill-s trickery and unpredictability will add spice to the attack, while Muscat-s doggedness will add some steel to the defensive area.
The key to success for the Phoenix is scoring first. Last season the Phoenix scored first in 12 games and went on to win 11 of those with one drawn.
This season they have won three and drawn one of the five games when they got their noses in front first, but have won only one of 12 after conceding the first goal.
Against Sydney FC last week the Phoenix had three good chances to take an early lead but didn-t take any of them and were on the back foot once Sydney opened the scoring.
They have a good record against Newcastle Jets having won their last five meetings and eight out of nine at home.
“We have been creating chances but not taking them,” coach Ricki Herbert said.
“That is something we have to change. It is all about confidence in front of goal and that has been lacking because we haven-t been finding the net.”
Last week ifill showed enough coming off the bench to lift his team-mates spirits, going agonisingly close with a difficult volley and hitting the crossbar with a powerful drive.
Attacking midfielder Isaki Cernak, signed this week from Melbourne Victory, had his first training session with his new team-mates on Saturday morning and is likely to start on the bench.
A likely starting team is: Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Andrew Durante (captain), Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Manny Muscat, Tyler Boyd, Louis Fenton, Dani Sanchez, Jeremy Brockie, Paul Ifill.
Substitutes (from): Glen Moss, Isaka Cernak, Ian Hogg, Alex Smith, Stein Huysegems.
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