Phoenix injury blow

Wellington Phoenix have suffered a set-back ahead of their trip to Gold Coast United this weekend with midfielder Nicky Ward ruled out for at least four weeks with a knee injury.

Wellington Phoenix have suffered a set-back ahead of their trip to Gold Coast United this weekend with midfielder Nicky Ward ruled out for at least four weeks with a knee injury.

Ward, who announced his arrival at the Phoenix with a stunning long-range strike in the Round 6 win against Sydney, has rediscovered that form in the past few weeks and showed some fine touches as part of an attacking front three against the Reds in Christchurch.

Scans on Tuesday revealed the extent of the knee injury, suffered in the dramatic 2-1 win over Adelaide United, and Ward is likely to be on the sidelines for between four to six weeks.

''He's been playing well. It's why we signed him,'' said coach Ricki Herbert. ''He'll be immensely disappointed. I thought he had a great game at the weekend. Hopefully we'll get him back pretty soon after Christmas.''

Leo Bertos, who has missed the past two matches with a groin injury, would be a ready-made replacement, provided he can prove his fitness.

Herbert said there was a ''pretty good chance'' the New Zealand international, who trained on Wednesday, would make the trip to Skilled Park.

But Herbert, who is awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the length of his three-match ban for alleging abusing referee Peter O'Leary in the latter stages of Sunday's game, does have other options should Bertos fall short.

Chris Greenacre could return up front with Paul Ifill switching to a wider role, or livewire youngster Marco Rojas is another possibility.

Rojas impressed off the bench against Adelaide and Sydney, but Herbert appears to want to take a more cautious approach with the 19-year-old, who has shown no fear in taking on defenders in his cameo appearances.

''I think it's gently, gently with Marco,'' the Phoenix coach said. ''He-s doing such a great job at the moment. Greenacre could play up front and Ifill play wide. We've got some different options.''

But Rojas, who saw his first season with the Phoenix cut short by an ankle injury that required surgery, looks set to get more game time either way.

''Unless anything dramatically goes wrong Marco will be in the squad, in the XI or on the bench for the balance of the season,'' Herbert said. ''I think he's doing very well. He's been a good impact player for us, that's for sure.''