Preview: Gold Coast United v Wellington Phoenix
Wellington makes its first-ever trip to the Gold Coast to take on the ladder leaders, knowing a win will see it catapulted in among the mix of teams currently vying for the top six.
Date: Friday October 2 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEST Venue: Skilled Park, Robina
TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au Head-to-head Never played
Past five matches: Gold Coast United: Round 4: Newcastle Jets 1, Gold Coast United 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 5: Gold Coast United 2, Sydney FC 1, Skilled Park Round 6: Perth Glory 2, Gold Coast United 2, ME Bank Stadium Round 7: Central Coast Mariners 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 8: Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Skilled Park
Wellington Phoenix Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 5: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium Round 6: Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium Round 7: Wellington Phoenix 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Westpac Stadium Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: Wellington makes its first-ever trip to the Gold Coast to take on the ladder leaders, knowing a win will see it catapulted in among the mix of teams currently vying for the top six. Ricki Herbert's team are coming off a run of four consecutive draws, three of which were at home, but need to get some wins on the board if they are to seriously challenge.
Gold Coast may be five points to the better of its rival this week, but has actually lost more games. Last week's defeat to Melbourne was its third in the past five weeks and its first ever on its home ground. After blazing a trail early, Gold Coast still finds itself on top, but is just two points clear of seventh-placed Adelaide.
What that means is that unless it turns around it-s recent poor run of form, which has yielded just four points from a possible 15 in the past five, then Gold Coast could find itself not only off the top of the ladder but out of the top six altogether.
The acid is certainly on Miron Bleiberg and his players, but they do get back Shane Smeltz for this match after he served his one-match ban. He is fit and firing to take on his former club in what should be an interesting sub-plot to an intriguing game. However, Steve Fitzsimmons will miss after being sent off against Melbourne, while Steve Pantelidis is also suspended.
It wasn't all bad news for the Gold Coast, and save for a late penalty, it would have got something against the defending champions. Joel Porter opened his Hyundai A-League account, while Jason Culina coolly converted a penalty. Golgol Mebrahtu looked dangerous in patches as well.
Bleiberg also gets back Robson and back-up goalkeeper Scott Higgins from injury, while former Melbourne defender Mark Byrnes has been called up along with James Brown and Steve Lustica. Two will drop out.
Robbie Bajic's time at the club has come to an end and Andrew Barisic is the other out. Zenon Caravella is another week away from returning with a hip injury, Tahj Minniecon should be back next week from Qantas Young Socceroos duties, Jefferson is three weeks away, while Daniel Piorkowski is out for long term.
Wellington has been very consistent, but Ricki Herbert needs his boys to find some killer instinct. The Phoenix have had chances to win all those past four games, but have failed to put them away and while their streak without home defeat has almost stretched to 12 months, they need to start picking up the maximum from those matches.
Herbert has often been praised for his attacking approach to away matches, and he will back his men to try and search for all three points in this match. But in the past few matches his most attacking and creative players have struggled to put their best foot forward. One of them, Leo Bertos, signed a three-year deal earlier this week, which will be a boost.
There is just one change for this match with Daniel back after taking a week off and Marco Rojas making way. Jon McKain will miss another three weeks with a quad injury.
Gold Coast United Squad: 1.Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.ROBSON, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 11.MILSON, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 18.James BROWN, 22.Adama TRAORE, 24.ANDERSON, 25.Steven LUSTICA, 26.Golgol MEBRAHTU, 27.Mark BYRNES, 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk) *two to be omitted*
In: ROBSON (return from knee injury), Shane SMELTZ (return from suspension), Mark BYRNES (promoted), Steve LUSTICA (promoted), James BROWN (promoted), Scott HIGGINS (gk) (return from shoulder injury).
Out: Steve FITZSIMMONS (suspended - 1 week), Steve PANTELIDIS (suspended - 1 week), Robbie BAJIC (gk) (end of temporary contract), Andrew BARISIC (not selected).
Unavailable: JEFFERSON (knee injury - 3 weeks), Tahj MINNIECON (international duty). Zenon CARAVELLA (hip injury - 1 week), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - 9 weeks)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES.
In: DANIEL (return from personal leave)
Out: Marco ROJAS (not selected)
Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - 3 weeks)