Phoenix stars set for return

While other coaches are having the depth of their squads tested to the limit by injury and suspension, Wellington boss Ricki Herbert is set to welcome back key players.

While other coaches are having the depth of their squads tested to the limit by injury and suspension, Wellington boss Ricki Herbert is set to welcome back key players.

Although goalkeeper Mark Paston (leg) and, in all probability, Paul Ifill (leg) are out for the remainder of the season, defender Tony Lochhead and midfielders Nick Ward are getting close to a return.

Lochhead required surgery on a groin problem first suffered at the World Cup in June and has not played for the Phoenix since the 2-1 loss to Melbourne Heart in round seven.

He also missed New Zealand's matches against Honduras and Paraguay in October but has in recent weeks had game time with the Phoenix reserve side.

He was due to play 60-70 minutes for the reserves against Hawke's Bay on Wednesday night with a comeback to Hyundai A-League action pencilled in for Melbourne Victory's visit in early January.

Ward, who suffered a knee injury in the 2-1 win against Adelaide United earlier this month, may even feature against North Queensland Fury on December 27 if he comes through Wednesday night's run-out in Napier.

With such positive news on the injury front and with Oscar Roberto Cornejo also due to return from a knee injury before the end of the season, Herbert has suggested he may not need to dip into the transfer market next month to bolster his squad.

"I'll probably speak to (owner) Terry (Serepisos) over the next few days and see what movement if anything we feel we want to do," Herbert said.

"You've got to make sure it's the right (player). Have we got what we need here? Do we just continue with the group we've got? There's probably some merit around that unless there was a real standout and at the moment we haven't got anybody to that degree yet."

Captain Andrew Durante, who was suspended for last weekend's 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets, believes that victory proved there was enough strength in depth at the Phoenix.

"We said when we signed all these players that we had such a good squad and now it's coming to the fore. When players are out others step in and can do the job," he said.

"It's a blow that we've lost Paul but Dylan (Macallister) was fantastic and Greenie (Chris Greenacre) was good and Marco (Rojas) has been a standout for us."

"It's a fantastic squad we've got. There's been a lot of questions about whether the mix is right and it took a few players a bit of time to gel but I think everyone has found their place in the team."

"We've got Lochie coming back. We've got Nicky Ward coming back and it's a fantastic time for the club."

With the battle for the play-off spots heating up as the teams head into the final stage of the regular season, now would certainly be the right time for the Phoenix to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"We've spoken about it after every win and we say we're going to win the next week and it hasn't happened this year," the Phoenix skipper said. "Hopefully this is the time that it happens and we go on, like we did last year, and go on for a great run and push for the semis."

"The conditions in Townsville are going to be hot and they are going to have big crowd there. It's going to be a tough place to pick up points but we're coming off a great win and we're full of confidence at the moment so there's no reason why we can't go there and pick up the points."