Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Adelaide United

The Wellington Phoenix return to action in the Liberty A-League tomorrow night, five days after their toughest defeat to date.

The Phoenix lost 3-2 to the Brisbane Roar in Wollongong on Sunday, conceding a late penalty after leading 2-0.

They have travelled in South Australia for the first time to face Adelaide United, who are sitting fourth on the table and leading the chasing pack of teams behind Sydney FC, Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory.

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says her players were “really gutted” after the loss to the Roar and had a few honest conversations about why it felt worse than a 5-nil defeat.

“Once we addressed that and had a bit of an open conversation about it and then looked to Adelaide, the mood in camp has been good since. They’re bouncing back quicker than I thought they would have,” Lewis told media on Wednesday.

“I think as a group we have to find that confidence and belief to know that in those games we can compete and we can still get a result out of it.

“The worst thing that could have happened to us, happened to us and we didn’t even get a single point out of it.

“Now it’s that experience, growth and learning opportunity that hopefully when we’re in it again, we’ve experienced it, it’s not unusual to us, it’s not so scary to us anymore and hopefully they’ll have a lot more belief and confidence to finish off a game.”

The Phoenix have just one point to show for their endeavours at the halfway stage of the regular season, but Lewis doesn’t want her players to be results focussed.

“Not focusing on the result is hard to do but that game [against Brisbane] showed how purposeful it was.

“As much as they haven’t been in that situation where they’ve been two-nil up and winning before they also started to focus too much on it.

“I think it made them panic. We moved away from our game plan, we started to play ourselves into trouble, we started to play frantically [and] we turned over so much possession. I think it caused us problems.”

Instead Lewis wants the players to focus on the way they want to play, execute and improve from game to game.

“I think if we do that the outcome of the game should come, but we’re trying not to solely focus on the score, or the win, or the loss, or the draw because from our first half of the season that’s where we’ve struggled in the motivation.”

Gemma Lewis concedes they are still trying to strike the right balance with their aggressive playing style.

“We’re still figuring it out. I’m not going to lie.

“We want to encourage the side to play, but…sometimes we over play and we get ourselves into trouble.

“Sometimes we’re too calm in the moment when we need to move the ball a little bit quicker or react a little bit more quickly. Sometimes we go too far down the other end and we panic and start to get chaotic.

“The way we defend is with an intensity that can be chaotic…so when we defend with that intensity and that almost chaos it’s then being able to shift into possession of now…you have the ball and can settle things down.

“I think that’s why we fade in games because we don’t strike that balance well. We defend at hundred miles an hour and we try and play at a hundred miles an hour. We struggle for an in between.”

Lewis says they have been preparing “for living in the chaos” as Adelaide have a similar aggressive mindset to the Phoenix and are successful at it.

“They live in chaos, they love it. How they press, their counter-press, their defensive transition, their counter-attacking ability, I find they actually thrive in the chaos so they’re going to want to put us under the pump, press us and force us to turn over possession high.

“We’ve done sessions on trying to figure out how to live within that panic and how to not get in that space of letting them dictate the game.”

Forward Kelli Brown will miss her second successive match for the Nix because of concussion, while centre back Mackenzie Barry remains in doubt with an ankle injury.

“We don’t know how long Kelli’s going to be out for. She’s still got symptoms so she’s not going to be cleared anytime soon, I don’t think.

“To be completely honest we’re being really stretched at the moment.

“Mack is still very much 50/50 right now and then we’ve also got another two players on limited minutes. We’re getting down to the bones of what we’ve got.”

The round eight Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United is scheduled to kick-off at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide at 6:35pm AEDT (8:35pm NZT)and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2.

Wellington Phoenix squad:
1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Jordan JASNOS, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Grace JALE, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Te Reremoana WALKER, 14. Cushla RUE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 18. Annabel MARTIN, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM.
Unavailable: 11. Kelli BROWN (concussion)