Time for ‘X-men’ to fire

WELLINGTON Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert is looking to his “X-factor” players to deliver against Perth Glory on Sunday.

Still seeking their first win of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season, the Phoenix have made the marathon journey to the Western Australian capital with renewed confidence after a gutsy performance helped them secure an important competition point from a stalemate against the Central Coast Mariners last weekend.

The goalless draw at Westpac Stadium typified the Phoenix-s resolve to get the early stages of their season back on track and their determination to recapture the form that took them to the final of the 2008 Pre-Season Cup.

With his players- commitment, passion and desire renewed, Herbert said it was time for the Phoenix to return to playing the exciting and attractive style of football they had become renowned for.

With a squad boasting talented midfield playmakers Leilei Gao, Daniel and Troy Hearfield as well as gun strikers Shane Smeltz and Adam Kwasnik, the Phoenix have the firepower to cause the Glory-s defence some major headaches.

“I think we can release the shackles in the middle and front thirds of the pitch, shift the ball quicker, get a few more bodies forward and get the ball to people who can expose the opposition,” Herbert said.

“Against the Mariners it was a case of playing tighter and I was pleased to see more commitment. Now we need to get those X-factor players on the ball and creating problems for the opposition.

“We can be more aggressive going forward.”

Although a win has so far eluded the Phoenix, Herbert said the club-s mindset remained upbeat.

“We-ve set the stall out to win as many games as we can – if not all of them – and we-ll be approaching this game no differently to how we approach every game. The onus is on winning and that has been the intent we-ve taken into every game from day one.”

Skipper Andrew Durante said last weekend-s much improved showing against the Mariners – highlighted by an important clean sheet – had steeled the squad ahead of the match at Members Equity Stadium.

“It was important for us to get that one under our belts, to prove to ourselves as much as anyone that we could hang tough, do the basics and get something out of the game. As a group we drew a line in the sand and vowed that was the bare minimum we have to give every week.

“That performance has helped us look ahead to this weekend with a lot of confidence.”

With spirits on the rise, Durante was looking forward to a more stylish performance from his side against Perth.

“We-ve set a benchmark in terms of commitment and now we have to start playing some nice football. I-m sure that will come this weekend and that we-ll play much better. If we can play the sort of football we-re capable of, and in the manner that Ricki has worked on with us, then I-m sure we-ll get a good result.”

Sunday-s match in Perth kicks off at 3pm AWST (5pm AEST, 7pm NZST).

Sunday, September 21, 2008
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
Members Equity Stadium
Local kickoff:
3pm (5pm AEST, 7pm NZST)
Referee: Strebre Delovski

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is 6PR (Perth) and Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM.

Perth Glory squad: 1. Jason PETKOVIC (gk), 2. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 3. David TARKA, 4. Jamie COYNE (captain), 5. Jamie HARNWELL, 7. Nick RIZZO, 8. James ROBINSON, 9. Adrian TRINIDAD, 11. Scott BULLOCH, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 14. Eugene DADI, 15. Hayden DOYLE, 16. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 19. Naum SEKULOVSKI, 21. Mark LEE, 22. Wayne SRHOJ, 24. Anthony SKORICH, 26. Jeff BRIGHT, 27. Stuart McLAREN, 30. Tando VELAPHI (gk). * five to be omitted.

In: 5. Jamie HARNWELL (return from injury), 7. Nick RIZZO (promoted), 15. Hayden DOYLE (promoted), 19. Naum SEKULOVSKI (return from injury), 21. Mark LEE (promoted), 22. Wayne SRHOJ (promoted).
Out: 10. AMARAL (hamstring – 3 weeks).
Unavailable: Josip MAGDIC (ankle – 6 weeks), Hayden FOXE (foot – 3 weeks), James DOWNEY (calf – 1 week), Dino DJULBIC (suspended – 4 weeks).

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Richard JOHNSON, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 16. David MULLIGAN, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain). * one to be omitted.

In: 10. Michael FERRANTE (promoted), 15. Adam KWASNIK (return from injury).
Out: 8. Vaughan COVENY (omitted).
Unavailable: 7. Leo BERTOS (groin – 1 week), 17. Vince LIA (knee – season).

* Head-to-head: All matches (played 3): Perth Glory wins 0, Wellington Phoenix wins 3 (0 draws). In Perth (played 1): Perth Glory wins 0, Wellington Phoenix wins 1 (0 draws).