World of change for Phoenix

INJURY to a Wellington Phoenix international could mean a positional change for another international.

New Zealand World Cup fullback Tony Lochhead has been ruled out of the Phoenix-s squad for Friday night-s clash with North Queensland Fury in Wellington and the hosts- most-capped player may be replaced on the left flank by Malta international Manny Muscat.

Lochhead has a groin injury and will have surgery next week. Having earlier been ruled out of the All Whites- October home internationals against Paraguay and Honduras, Lochhead will also be out of action for the Phoenix for at least eight weeks.

The versatile Muscat, who came to Wellington as a specialist right back but has been in stellar form for the Phoenix in a holding midfield role, may get the call from coach Ricki Herbert to play at left back in place of Lochhead.

The Malta international says he-s prepared to do whatever he can to help the team.

“It-s bad news for Lochy but I think I can do a job for the team there (on the left). Obviously it-s always tough to switch positions, particularly in the first game, but you mould yourself into that new position as times goes by.”

Muscat-s last appearance on the left flank for the Phoenix saw him turn in a man-of-the-match performance in a 2-1 exhibition match win against Argentine super club Boca Juniors in July.

If he can replicate that effort against the Fury then the Phoenix will be in safe hands at Westpac Stadium on Friday.

“Positionally I should be okay given that I-ve played on the right. If Ricki puts me there I-ll look to move the ball a little quicker because it-s not my preferred foot, play the simple ball and overlap as much as I can. Ricki has always encouraged me to get forward.”

In other changes to the Phoenix squad for Friday night-s match, combative midfielder Vince Lia returns from injury and Argentine playmaker Oscar Roberto Cornejo has been promoted. Talismanic striker Paul Ifill has a groin niggle suffered during the Phoenix-s two-match trip to Melbourne that the Phoenix coaching staff will assess on gameday before making any decision on his involvement.

Coming off a goalless draw with Melbourne Victory and a 2-1 midweek loss to Melbourne Heart, Muscat said the Phoenix were looking to get back out in front of their home fans against the Fury.

“It was a tough trip to Melbourne and we didn-t get as many points as we wanted. But we-re playing at home now and we know we can turn things around and get the three points.”

Friday night-s match kicks off at 7.30pm.