Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

An opportunity for the Wellington Phoenix women to assess the progress they’ve made in their maiden Liberty A-League season.

The Phoenix will visit the Western Sydney Wanderers in their penultimate match on Sunday afternoon, before bringing down the curtain on their inaugural campaign in Wollongong on Friday.

The Nix picked up an historic point on debut against the Wanderers at WIN Stadium at the start of December.

“We want to show from game one to now that we’ve come really far,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media on Friday.

“We’ve done a lot of work, we feel like the girls are starting to really put things together, start to put their performances together and be a little bit more clinical, and I want to be able to display that with a really good performance against Western Sydney.”

The Wanderers drew 2-2 with Newcastle Jets last week to halt a six-game losing run, which leaves them directly above the Phoenix on the ladder.

“This is actually a really big opportunity for us. Definitely something we’re going to be targeting to get a result out of and I think on our good day we could do that,” Lewis said.

“We just need to make sure we are disciplined against them because they’re a type of team that can really frustrate you.

“In games where we’ve come up against teams like that we’ve got impatient [and] we’ve made mistakes.

“Against Western Sydney that’s something that could happen but we’re trying to really pre-empt that to settle the nerves, be calm under pressure and not get impatient in possession.”

Wellington could leapfrog the Wanderers on the table if they win by three goals or more.

“We want to get off the bottom of the table, but we don’t want that to dictate how we’re going to play.”

Lewis hopes the team has learnt some valuable lessons from last week’s 4-1 defeat to Adelaide United.

“Because we were like ‘yes, we think we can get off the bottom of the table. We think we can get these points’.

“I think we just let it slip a little bit and got a little bit too loose at the back and started to be a little bit too aggressive further forward.

“It gave them the ability to get that goal back on us pretty early in the second-half and then it’s harder to come back from 3-1 down.

“As much as we want this game and we want to get off the bottom of the table it’s again trying to be like ‘trust the process, trust how we play, trust our gameplan and not get too drawn by the score line or the result’.

“Because when we do things that aren’t necessarily to the gameplan and to how we’d normally play that’s when we start to get punished.”

Gemma Lewis is hopeful of being able to call on captain Lily Alfeld and vice-captain Kate Taylor, after they both sat out the defeat to Adelaide.

Alfeld returned from the United States this morning, after two weeks away with the Football Ferns and will be assessed today.

“As long as she returns a negative RAT test when she gets back in and if she’s travelled well and is feeling well then she’ll be up for selection.

“We’re confident in Bri (back-up goalkeeper Brianna Edwards) as well and if we feel like Lily’s not in the right headspace or it’s too risky and she’s too sore then Bri will step up happily.”

Taylor is still nursing the back injury she suffered in the first half of the match against Canberra United a fortnight ago and the Phoenix medical staff are evaluating whether she can feature against Western Sydney.

“She really wants to play, knowing that it’s not going to get any worse, there’s nothing she can really do to it, it’s just an annoying, uncomfortable pain.”

Lewis will be unable to call on central midfielder Grace Wisnewski, who is returning home for mental health reasons.

Wisnewski has played 90 minutes in all but one of the Phoenix’s 12 previous matches and will be sorely missed on Sunday afternoon.

The round 13 Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at CommBank Stadium in Sydney at 4:05pm AEDT (6:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE and free-to-air on Prime in New Zealand.

Most recent meeting:
3 December 2021 – Wellington Phoenix 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 0

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Wanderers 0W & 1D.

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), 18. Annabel MARTIN (knee injury)
Doubtful: 3. Kate TAYLOR (back injury)