Durante prepares for playoffs push

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is adamant his side can still reach the A-League playoffs despite their recent form slump.

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is adamant his side can still reach the A-League playoffs despite their recent form slump.

The Phoenix entered the season hoping to challenge for the title but instead find themselves languishing ninth on the ladder with more than half the campaign gone.

They have won just two of their past seven matches and need to turn around their fortunes against Western Sydney on Sunday if they are to start moving up the tightly congested ladder.

The Phoenix sit two points above bottom-placed Sydney FC and two points off Melbourne Heart in sixth.

"We had high expectations coming into this season and we started off and everything was going the right way and heading in the way of being a fantastic season," Durante said.

"But we've fallen off a little bit. We're definitely absolutely confident we can make the playoffs. We're maybe two points out of the (top) six so we're definitely still there.

"This week is a massive game. It's got to be three points. You get a couple of wins on the bounce and the table seems to flip right around. We're still very confident."

After coming under fire from owners Gareth Morgan and Rob Morrison and fans for their dour brand of football, coach Ricki Herbert has begun changing the style of play and tactics in recent weeks.

With Paul Ifill sidelined following ankle surgery, Herbert has used the fit-again Dani Sanchez as a creative midfielder in place of the more defensive Alex Smith, while Tyler Boyd has been preferred ahead of Stein Huysegems up front alongside Louis Fenton and Jeremy Brockie.

But Durante acknowledges the switch to playing a more fluid passing game has been tough, particularly coming partway through a campaign.

"We've had a brand of football that we've played for four years and we've had the same players playing that way for that long. To change mid-season has been difficult," said the central defender.

"But I think it's a positive thing. It's a fantastic challenge for all the players to say 'let's be better. Let's play a better brand of football'.

"A lot of people have taken it negatively and thought it was the wrong time. It probably could have been done in pre-season but it hasn't been. It's been done in the middle of the season and we've just got to rise to that.

"We're playing a better brand of football. I think that first half in Melbourne I don't think we've ever played that kind of football before, especially away from home and especially against opposition like that. We're getting there.

"It's going to be a slow process but I think you'll see from the style of play that we're definitely improving."