Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Brisbane Roar

A major test of the Wellington Phoenix’s depth at the halfway stage of the Liberty A-League women’s season.

The Phoenix could be without as many as three regular members of their XI for Sunday’s seventh round match against the Brisbane Roar in Wollongong.

Forward Kelli Brown has been ruled out of the match, another first-choice player is in major doubt and left back Saskia Vosper may only be able to play limited minutes after missing last week’s match against Melbourne City with a groin strain.

“It’s been a bit of a tough week to be honest,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media on Friday.

“At one point this week it was looking like the team was pretty much going to self-select itself by who’s available and who can get out on the field.

“Touch wood we’re better now than we were looking towards the start of the week.”

Brown is unavailable after suffering a head knock against City.

“Obviously she has quite an extensive history with concussion so we have to take it really seriously.

“We didn’t want to risk anything so we ruled her out for this week so now she’s with the docs and she’ll go through the clear to play process.

“We don’t actually know how long she’ll be out for yet.”

Lewis is hoping Vosper will be cleared to play some minutes against Brisbane, while there was a “big question mark” over the availability of an another player.

“I’m not going to say who it is…out of respect for her and the team, but you’ll notice in the line-up as it’d be a decent loss for us.”

The Phoenix are looking to build on their performance against City last Sunday.

“We had way better possession, we had way better pass completion rate, we had the most passes we had in the opposition half…so there are areas we were working on that we’ve been competing better at.

“But ultimately for us a key metric is us being able to score goals.”

Wellington haven’t found the back of the net since Ava Pritchard scored the team’s historic first goal against the Newcastle Jets in round two.

Since opening the season with a well-deserved draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers, the Phoenix have suffered five straight defeats, but three of them have come against the competition’s top two sides, Sydney FC and Melbourne City.

The Brisbane Roar sit just two places and three points above the Nix in eighth and are coming off a 1-0 home defeat to the Wanderers in round six.

Gemma Lewis is wary of her players getting carried away with thinking they have a great chance of picking up another point.

“They need to be mindful of not being complacent, not thinking that this is going to be a way easier game than City because actually it’s a different match-up.

“Brisbane have pace in the flanks [and] we’ve seen how we deal with pace in the flanks at times, it’s a little bit of our Achilles heel.

“You cannot tell me that they’re not going to be targeting us for three points and throwing everything at this game.”

Lewis says her players will be doing the same.

“It is a game we want to get something out of but we’re still going to be the underdogs.

“But at the same time they’ve struggled in games so there’s opportunities there for us.”

The match has been brought forward two hours to help the A-Leagues’ broadcast partner, which is experiencing staffing issues as a result of the Omicron outbreak in New South Wales.

Playing in the heat of the day will be a further test of the Phoenix’s high-energy pressing game.

“It’s not looking like it’s going to be the hottest day on earth…but it is a little bit of a worry for us.”

The round seven Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar is scheduled to kick-off at WIN Stadium in Wollongong at 2:05pm AEDT (4:05pm NZT)and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 3.

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)