Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is confident that talismanic midfielder Paul Ifill will recover from his groin injury in time to play in Friday night's match at Westpac Stadium against the Newcastle Jets.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is confident that talismanic midfielder Paul Ifill will recover from his groin injury in time to play in Friday night's match at Westpac Stadium against Newcastle Jets.
Ifill sat out of Sunday's 3-1 loss against Melbourne Victory and was noticeable by his absence with Herbert conceding afterwards his team could have lost that game by an even greater margin.
With a small squad of questionable depth, Herbert is desperate to get Ifill, who injured himself in Wednesday's win over Brisbane in Dunedin, back on the park.
"Hopefully he will play on Friday. We've got to back up again across the Tasman on Friday and he is back," Herbert said.
"We've only got a very small squad, so it is pretty delicate to balance."
Herbert admitted that Spaniard Dani Sanchez was probably not 100 per cent ready to play in Sunday's match, but he was forced to call on him late in the match when Nick Ward was concussed with 23 minutes left.
"He was probably a little ginger and we thought if we got 30 out of him and he got through that, then he will be right to front up on Friday as well," the coach said.
Ward should be fine to take his place against the Jets, with Herbert confirming that he had suffered a mild concussion in a head clash with Victory defender Petar Franjic.
"Structurally he is OK. It's probably a bit of minor concussion. We just don't have a lot to dig into and we have to be careful (playing players injured)," he said. "The last thing we need is another two or three injuries here."
The loss ends Phoenix's week on a sour note, having accounted for Perth and Brisbane on home soil over the past eight days.
But Herbert said he wouldn't use the tight scheduling of matches as an excuse for his team's lethargic opening 30 minutes, where they conceded three goals.
"It's been tough, that's pretty obvious, but we are not going to blame it on (fatigue). You have to look at the context of it," he said.
"We didn't look as sharp as what we've been. Put that down to whatever, and we got a bit out of it and it could have been a bit worse."
"We never shut the ball down as well as we have been doing. The last two games we have been very dogged and very determined, but we lacked that cutting edge (on Sunday)."