Phoenix right in the mix

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is adamant his side has made the right strides over the last couple of weeks and it is ready to stake a genuine claim for a top six berth.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is adamant his side has made the right strides over the last couple of weeks and it is ready to stake a genuine claim for a top six berth.

Herbert has chopped and changed with his formation throughout the year, obviously looking for the right balance with the players at his disposal, and he is much more content with the mix they have at present.

"We changed it up for the Central Coast match," he said. "They're a busy team in midfield and we thought if we won it in the air, which we did, we'd give it a good shot."

"Brisbane brings a slightly different proposition and we will have to be up for the game. Our form is good, the players are good. It's a good healthy squad. We've only really got one injury at the moment so it's not a bad position to be in."

Recent signings Eugene Dadi and goalkeeper Liam Reddy have been handy acquisitions for the club and Herbert knows the pair bring some much-needed depth to the squad after the Phoenix suffered a poor run of injuries and ill-discipline over the last six weeks.

"They're both experienced players and they offer a lot to the squad. It's healthy and we're not sitting back, we're looking to bring players to the club if we think they can make a difference and positions aren't safe, only performances will solidify that.

"The players who played against Central Coast did the job and so they have probably got their noses in front at the moment.

"I think we've got good attacking options now and Eugene comes into that frame. He's a little bit different from the others and Paul [Ifill] has done a great job for us centrally as well so it certainly gives us a bit to think about this week."

The New Year's Eve win against Central Coast puts the Phoenix right back in the hunt for a top six spot, especially with a game in hand over some teams, and Herbert knows just how important that win was.

"You're kind of in that mix now where that result got us above them, it gives us a game in hand over them. I think those little things can only help. It's going to be tight over the next seven games for us but we've still got a game in hand over a couple of the sides too.

"We've had six clean sheets this year out of 20 which is pretty good for us. That's a real positive when you're scoring goals too."

Herbert now believes that the testing period in and around the All Whites' World Cup qualification campaign is over which seemed to coincide with a dip in form for the Phoenix.

"I think it was less the All Whites being busy and more the changes we had to make to the side due to suspensions and injuries. "Prior to that we probably got through 14 or 15 games unchanged and minimal disruption to the team and at some stages we had five or six players out.

"I think that took time for the guys to gel and I think we saw a good reflection of that against Central Coast and we're back to where we should be."