The Wellington Phoenix want more than just an elusive win before the end of the Liberty A-League season.
The Phoenix women have suffered eight straight defeats since securing an historic point on debut, but their last three losses have been by just one goal.
The team is in the process of working out their expectations for the final five matches of the season, starting with the defending champion Melbourne Victory at WIN Stadium in Wollongong tomorrow night.
“Everything has been focussed around this one win.., but we look at the next five games and feel like there’s more up for grabs than just one win in there, based on our current performances, based on the oppositions that we’ve come up against,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media on the eve of the match.
“I realise that us saying that when we haven’t won a game yet might see quite backwards, but I think our mentality of where we’re at now in the season, how confident we feel in the team we’re almost like saying to them ‘what do you want, put a number on it, how many points do you want to get out of the next five games and we’re going to chase after that’.
“We’re not going to turn around and say we’re going to aim for three points from every single game because we don’t feel like that’s setting ourselves a realistic expectation.
“We haven’t settled on a number yet but it won’t be three. We want to set ourselves bigger targets than that.”
The Phoenix let a 2-1 halftime lead slip against Perth Glory on Monday night, with Perth scoring the match-winner in the 89th minute.
Lewis says “that one hurt” but she wants the players to change their mindsets.
“I’m hoping to see a better bounce back from that moving forward that we’re holding ourselves accountable.
“Not accepting that ‘aww we were so close’ and ‘that was great to be that close’ [when] it was our own undoing that stopped us getting the points.”
While the Phoenix have had only three full days to prepare for tomorrow night’s match, Victory haven’t played for almost three weeks.
“If I’m being quite honest a short turnaround always brings a little bit more worry because of how we like to play, because of the type of team we are and physically where we’re at in the season you know some players are carrying some fatigue.
“The bounce back from the game hasn’t been so bad it’s more been trying to calm the nerves and the feelings that we might not be ready to compete by tomorrow and getting in that belief in them that we can use the depth in our squad.
“Players can step up that are fresh and maybe haven’t had those minutes or fatigue in them and they’re raring to go and we can still compete at that level.”
Gemma Lewis will be unable to call on hard-working midfielder Grace Wisnewski, who has made herself unavailable for selection for mental health reasons.
“We’ve supported her and think she’s an incredible player and an incredible person. Even before coming here she was working through mental health and deals with some anxiety.
“We support her in that space and we’ve supported her through this whole programme both at home and now here.
“With the short turnaround she doesn’t quite get a good recovery space and settles in enough time to be ready to go again and doesn’t want to put the team in unnecessary harm by her potentially not playing as well as she would like to.
“It’s just not the right time for her to be playing. We’re super supportive of her sitting this one out and supporting her team-mates.”
Lewis has commended Wisnewski for her bravery.
“She brought it to us and we talked about it…I think it was really important for her to make that decision herself.
“We massively support that and we also think it’s the right decision for the team at this moment in time.
“We’re super supportive of it and also super proud that she feels confident in her environment to let us share that.”
Forward Kelli Brown remains unavailable due to concussion and centre back Mackenzie Barry is also “50-50” to play against Victory because of an ankle injury, despite a player of the match showing against Perth on Monday.
“She did so well against Perth so of course we want her but the short turnaround doesn’t allow her [ankle] a lot of time to settle and almost puts it at a higher risk.
“Potentially for this game she misses out to make sure she’s fully back for the next game and onwards, because our turnarounds are a lot more reasonable.
“We don’t want to put her an unnecessary risk knowing that we could lose her for a longer period of time.”
The round 10 Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory is scheduled to kick-off at WIN Stadium in Wollongong 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: 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (mental health reasons), 11. Kelli BROWN (concussion), 14. Cushla RUE (ankle injury)