Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has a few injury concerns heading into Sunday's Hyundai A-League clash with struggling Gold Coast United.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has a few injury concerns heading into Sunday's A-League clash with struggling Gold Coast United.
Nicky Ward (ankle) and Mirjan Pavlovic (knee) have both been ruled out of the trip across the Tasman, which will see the Phoenix remain in Australia for the following Friday's Round 16 clash with Newcastle Jets.
Vince Lia also took a knock to his knee in training on Thursday and is doubtful, while Tim Brown, who played his 100th game for the club last weekend, missed training because of illness but is expected to travel with the squad.
"Nicky had a scan and he's got a small tear in his ankle," revealed Herbert, who will include Jimmy Downey and Cameron Lindsay in a squad of 16 because of the extended nature of the two-game trip.
"He's probably a week to 10 days. Hopefully he's back up and running against Melbourne Heart."
"Vince Lia got a little knock. Hopefully he's okay but we'll get that checked out."
"(Pavlovic) is probably a week away so it's not a long-term thing."
"There are just a few little obstacles at the moment. We'll wait and see how everyone is tomorrow."
Downey, who has played just 42 minutes of football this season, made his comeback from a knee injury off the bench in the 5-2 home win over the Jets but has not been required since coming on against Adelaide in the 2-0 away loss at the end of December.
Lindsay, 19, is seen as a promising prospect but has yet to make his A-League debut despite being selected on the bench four times.
"He's incredibly competitive in and around the first team when we play and mix it up (in training)," said Herbert of the young New Zealand midfielder.
"He's young, he's hungry and he's done a good job for us. You've got to give him that exposure."
If Lia is unavailable for Sunday's match it could mean a recall to the starting XI for Alex Smith, who has replaced the Australian in midfield in the Phoenix's two most recent outings.
Paul Ifill is almost certain to start against Gold Coast after coming through matches against Sydney and Glory, meaning Chris Greenacre could be given a spell on the bench.
The other selection conundrum for Herbert surrounds his choice of goalkeeper.
Incumbent Tony Warner has not been quite the dominant force in the box in recent games that he was earlier in season. He conceded a soft goal against Sydney and was left flat-footed when Josh Mitchell headed home a late winner for Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Mark Paston, who has been first-choice for New Zealand under Herbert, could get his chance this weekend.
"Mark has done everything really, really well. He's biding his time and waiting for his chance," said Herbert who will leave it until Saturday to decide between the two.
"I don't think there is a lot between them. You could put Mark in tomorrow. He's gone through a World Cup campaign and been outstanding."
"The experience is there, everything is there. Tony has a good background, a good pedigree at big clubs. It's just really a feel of, is it the right time to do it (make a change)."
As ever the Phoenix's away form remains a talking point. They have yet to record a win in Australia this season and after letting three valuable points go begging at home against Perth, Herbert is all too aware they need to start collecting them on the road if they are to remain in contention for a top four finish.
Taking on the bottom two clubs in successive matches would be the perfect time to end the away day blues, although Herbert doesn't quite see it like that.
"I'd probably see anybody away as a chance to do it," he said. "I don't think there's anybody in the league now that any of the sides think is going to be a massive task and that you're going to be under the pump for 90 minutes.
"You've always got a shot. They will be desperate. They want to get points. We're desperate. We want to win away."
"We've got to go with clear the heads and nothing to fear. The rest is kind of obvious. We need to be better and hopefully we are on Sunday."