Phoenix staying positive

Under-fire Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is backing his players to turn around their A-League form slump and has dismissed those criticising his selections and tactics.

Under-fire Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is backing his players to turn around their A-League form slump and has dismissed those criticising his selections and tactics.

Herbert is coming under increasing pressure as last season's preliminary finalists struggle to make an impact this season and find themselves sitting in eighth place at the halfway point having lost eight of their opening 15 games.

They look short on confidence and have leaked 26 goals already this campaign compared to the 29 in 27 games last season, while a lack of creativity in midfield and poor finishing in front of goal have also been a cause for concern.

Many have questioned why the coach has persisted with the out-of-sorts Paul Ifill rather than giving Daniel a starting opportunity.

Tim Brown and Vince Lia have been described as "workhorses" and this season's new signings, striker Dylan Macallister, creative midfielder Nick Ward and defender Jade North have had only limited success when they have got on the pitch.

The players certainly appear unhappy at the criticism levelled at them in recent weeks with several refusing to speak to the media ahead of Wednesday's clash with Melbourne Heart in Wellington.

But Herbert was defiant saying he would not be swayed by any outside influences.

"I'm very supportive of the players, very supportive," he said. "For all the football experts out there, they can have their opinion. At the moment it's only mine that counts."

But Herbert concedes the new players have not made the impact he thought they would.

"It was easy to look back last year and think we were very close (to winning the league) so the addition of some names might change it," he said. "In hindsight that might not be the case."

"There's accountability for the players to play well every week but they are only human and at times that may not happen. That consistency factor hasn't quite been there."

"It's a tough league and if you're not quite right you get beaten and we haven't been quite right."

Wellington face a tricky period of four games in 12 days but Herbert does not believe the next two at home, to Heart and Melbourne Victory (Saturday), fall into the make or break category.

"I think there are probably seven teams in the same boat as us," he said. "There are still strong opportunities to be in the play-offs and I don't think two games are going to make the difference."

"We probably haven't played well for 15 games and we still could be, or should be, in the top six."

The Heart will arrive in the New Zealand capital buoyed by the success Brisbane Roar and Central Coast have enjoyed at Westpac Stadium during the past month.

"Teams come across here and want to win now," admitted Herbert. "The last two results at home have probably opened that door a little bit for people to come with a bit more confidence and maybe to come with a bit more attacking mode.

"We've allowed that to happen."

"But it's about us tomorrow night. It's about us stepping up and getting back to a performance that's close to where we have been. If we can do that then I think we can win."