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

The Wellington Phoenix are targeting tomorrow night’s Liberty A-League match against Canberra United for their breakthrough win.

Both sides are winless with a month remaining in the 2021/22 season, although Canberra have managed four draws to Wellington’s one and have played two fewer games.

The Phoenix have lost their last nine matches since claiming an historic point on debut, but head coach Gemma Lewis says she will disappointed if they leave Australia’s capital without three points.

“To be honest that’s the way I feel about the rest of our games. I feel like the rest of our games are winnable,” Lewis told media on the eve of the match.

And the Phoenix players believe they can beat Canberra.

“They’re definitely in the frame of mind that they want to win. They talk about it openly, they want us as a staff to talk about it openly, they want us to be properly targeting this team and pushing for a win.

“Obviously we always do [push for a win], but more of a mindset shift to ‘this game would be ours to lose and we want to push to win it’.”

But Lewis says they need to strike a balance between believing and understanding “we’re still going to have to play out of our skin and it’s not going to be gifted to us”.

“I don’t want us to fall in that trap of looking at Canberra and being like ‘they haven’t won, there’s an opportunity for us’ and then we go into the game with expectations that maybe it’s going to be a bit easier, because it’s not.

“It’s going to be a really, really tough game.

“They’re still going to be expected to win. We’re still huge underdogs, especially in terms of player for player match-ups.

“They have very good visa players that offer something that we don’t necessarily get access to.

“So I’m trying to find the balance between backing ourselves and having the confidence to talk about winning and saying that’s what we want to do…however it’s not going to be an easier game by any margin.”

Lewis believes the match can go both ways, but doubts it will finish in a draw.

“It’s two winless teams so they’re 100% going to be targeting us. We definitely want to push them for a win. I feel like somebody is going to get their first win but it could go either way.

“When you look at how many results or draws they’ve clawed out in the last 10 minutes and then look at how many results we’ve thrown away in the last 10 minutes, it’s going to be an interesting one to see who’s improved in those areas.”

Gemma Lewis has welcomed back box-to-box midfielder Grace Wisnewski, who missed last week’s 2-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory for mental health reasons.

“Grace has made herself available. She’s been training all week and seems in better spirits.”

But forward Kelli Brown remains side-lined with concussion and will miss her fifth straight game.

“This season has been really, really tough for Kelli.

“We were actually hoping she’d be available for this game. She was training a couple of sessions non-contact and the idea was to have her cleared by the Canberra game, but she ended up getting symptoms in one of those sessions so that means she goes back a step.

“Her going back a step meant she wasn’t going to have enough time to get cleared for the Canberra game, which she was really gutted about because in her head she had that game as a target.”

Lewis will also be without Australian defenders Annabel Martin and Cushla Rue because of knee and ankle injuries respectively.

Captain Lily Alfeld will still lead the Phoenix against Canberra, despite being named in the Football Ferns squad for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup.

Alfeld will fly to California on Saturday night to join up with the national squad ahead of their first match against Iceland on Friday week (NZT).

The round 11 Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Canberra United is scheduled to kick-off at Viking Park in Canberra at 7:45pm AEDT (9:45pm NZT)and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7.

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), 14. Cushla RUE (ankle injury), 18. Annabel MARTIN (knee injury)