Phoenix young gun set for finals

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is confident rising star Marco Rojas can cope with whatever Adelaide United throw at him in Friday night's Hyundai A-League elimination semi-final.

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is confident rising star Marco Rojas can cope with whatever Adelaide United throw at him in Friday night's Hyundai A-League elimination semi-final.

Rojas has made a huge impact for the Phoenix in his 16 appearances this season and has been one of the key reasons Wellington find themselves in the play-offs for the second year in a row.

The 19-year-old took on the playmaking duties when Paul Ifill's season was curtailed by a nasty leg injury in mid-December.

He has scored two goals but has set up countless others, causing defences all sorts of headaches with his pace, deliveries into the box and sublime skills on the ball.

"If you've seen our last 10 goals, he's set up maybe nine of them. He's very important for us," enthused Durante, who returns to the squad following his two-game suspension.

"Teams are definitely more aware of him now but he is still causing damage and that's a great sign."

"I think team talks are all about him and how to stop him but he's still setting up our goals and still playing really well and that's a credit to him. Hopefully it continues."

Friday night's match will be the young New Zealander's first taste of finals football but he appears undaunted by the prospect of playing in front of a packed Hindmarsh Stadium.

"It's very exciting. I can't wait to get on the pitch really," Rojas said.

The slightly built teenager is also unfazed by the extra attention he has been receiving on the pitch from frustrated defenders since his rise to prominence.

"I used to get it quite a bit playing in the lower leagues as well so it's nothing new," he added.

"I sort of expected it to come straight away but it's taken a while for it to happen. I'm prepared that they know a bit more about who I am and how I play, so they've got a bit more of an advantage than they had before."

"But it doesn't really change how I prepare for each game. I just try and play my normal game and play quickly and try to get away from them and the challenges."

Given his importance to the Phoenix, Durante said he would be talking to the referee prior to the match to ensure his young team-mate was not unduly targeted.

"All over the world the smaller players tend to get butchered a lot. He is important for us and we've got to make sure he gets all the protection he needs," said the Phoenix captain.

"I think he will be all right. He's a great kid, a great talent, and these are the big occasions that footballers love to excel in."

"We've just got to make sure we get around him, make sure he is comfortable and he really just needs to go out there and enjoy it."

The Phoenix left for Australia on Wednesday buoyed by the fact they ended their losing streak at Hindmarsh Stadium with a 1-0 win when the sides last met just over 10 days ago.

"That was huge. If we had not picked up a result there it would have been very, very tough mentally for us to pick up a result come Friday," admitted Durante.

"The fact that we did get a good result stands us in good stead. The belief is sky high. We've done it once, why not do it again. It was huge for us."

Wellington's form away from home this season has been poor. Aside from the success against Adelaide the only other win on the road came against Perth Glory in early November.

But Durante was adamant form plays little part when it comes to the sudden-death nature of finals football.

"It's a one-off game. I think you can throw the formbook out the window for semi-final football. Anything can happen," he said.

"It's important that we go out there and have the same mindset, same discipline and same structure (as the last time we were there) and give ourselves every chance."