Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Melbourne City

The Wellington Phoenix women have left New South Wales for the first time in their maiden Liberty A-League season to face a familiar foe.

The Phoenix will square-off against high-flying Melbourne City at AAMI Park in Melbourne tomorrow afternoon.

City beat the defending champion Melbourne Victory 5-1 in their last match on Boxing Day, with Football Ferns forward Hannah Wilkinson scoring all five of their goals.

“I’m going to push her for her Kiwi loyalties and just tell her to keep it at a couple,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis joked after being asked about Wilkinson’s threat.

“She’s on form at the moment which is good from a Kiwi perspective, but will cause us problems.”

However, Lewis believes Wilkinson is the type of striker her centre backs Kate Taylor and Mackenzie Barry are more accustomed to playing.

“She likes to shoot in and around the box, is strong, likes to come off the front and get ball to feet quite a lot and that’s what the girls like to play against.

“They like to step, they like to intercept, they like to be a bit more aggressive. Whereas the one-vs-one battles and the turn and runs are areas where we’re not as competent.

“For the most part they’re looking forward to playing her, with her being a fellow Kiwi and obviously they know her from the Ferns and some of them have played with her before.

“We understand that she’s going to be a weapon and we’ve just got to make sure our defending in the box…is something we’re a lot better at than we were against Sydney.”

City’s playmakers Holly McNamara and Rhianna Pollicina are also major threats, with McNamara having set-up three of Wilkinson’s five goals against Melbourne Victory.

“When you look at the chances that Wilky had a lot of them came from McNamara and Pollicina creating things.

“Those two we know are going to cause us problems.”

The Phoenix last played on December 30, when they were beaten 5-0 by Sydney FC and Lewis says they’ve used the time in between games “as a bit of a reset”.

“There was a lot of fatigue setting in…so we took the 10 days to be a bit smart, give them a couple of days off and then reset and look forward to the game.

“It has been really, really good to be able to have a good few sessions to try and address what went wrong in the Sydney game, but at the same time turn our focus to City and ourselves on what we’re wanting to see improvement in.”

Wellington will be without regular left back Saskia Vosper, who strained her groin late in the second-half of the Sydney defeat.

“Saskia’s unavailable for this game, but it looks at the moment like it’s just going to be this game, which is a real positive.

“She’s doing really well and we were talking about her being available for maybe 20 minutes this game, but we just don’t really want to risk it.”

But the Phoenix will be able to call-on on forward Grace Jale after she was forced to sit out the match against Sydney to manage a hamstring injury.

“Jale’s fully cleared to play. She can start or come on, she’s not restricted.”

The sixth round Liberty A-League women’s match between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City at AAMI Park in Melbourne is scheduled to kick-off at 4:05pm AEDT (6:05pm NZT), with the match 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: 2. Saskia VOSPER (groin strain)