One less worry for Herbert

The prospect of players missing Wellington Phoenix's Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season opener through suspension has dominated coach Ricki Herbert's thinking ahead of Saturday's 2008 Pre-Season Cup match against Sydney FC in Wollongong.

The prospect of players missing Wellington Phoenix's Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season opener through suspension has dominated coach Ricki Herbert's thinking ahead of Saturday's 2008 Pre-Season Cup match against Sydney FC in Wollongong.

Competition rules stipulate that any player who accrues two yellow cards during the 2008 Pre-Season Cup is suspended from the following match.

Suspensions carry over into the competition proper and could cause headaches for all clubs in the first round of the new season.

This was going to be a major problem for the two finalists, as they would be playing an extra match. However, FFA amended the 2008 Pre-Season Cup disciplinary rules to wipe all yellow cards at the end of round 3 of the warm-up competition, meaning that the two teams contesting the final will start with a clean slate in terms of cautions.

With the Phoenix at the top of the standings in Group B and a good shot at making the final, the New Zealand team welcomed the news.

"It's a good move by the FFA," Herbert said. "Tony Pignata (Phoenix chief executive) lobbied strongly on behalf of all clubs and it's pleasing that his concerns, and those of the other clubs, have been addressed."

But the possibility of suspensions carrying into Round 1 of the season remains a concern for all clubs in this weekend's round of matches.

"I'm sure there's sensitivity around what coaches can and can't do and how much of a risk they're prepared to take with players [in danger of suspension]. It does play a big part in your thinking at this point in the season," Hherbert said.

Defensive midfielder Karl Dodd will miss Saturday's game against Sydney FC after being cautioned in the Phoenix's first two matches. Other players with yellow cards include midfielder Troy Hearfield and centre back Jon McKain.

With left back Tony Lochhead currently on trial with English Premier League club Middlesbrough and right back Vince Lia out for the season with injury, Herbert has named Hearfield in his squad as a cover option in Wollongong.

"Jon took a bit of a knock against Queensland last weekend, so that helped our decision in not playing him this weekend," Herbert said.

"But we've elected to play Troy because of where we sit. Troy gives us a little bit of security should we need to make adjustments at the back."

Current leaders of Group B, victory tomorrow will assure the Phoenix a spot in Wednesday's final and Herbert admitted the prospect was enticing.

"It's a tough one because it would be cool for Wellington to be in a final - we've only been going 18 months - albeit a pre-season one," Herbert said.

"But that won't be the focal point for the game; it'll be around the performance. I think if we get a decent performance that [making the final] may take care of itself."