Preview: Wellington Phoenix FC vs Newcastle Jets FC
All the latest ahead of the big clash at the cake tin
Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets Saturday 18th December 7:00pm
Back at the Westpac! After a brilliant visit to Christchurch, Phoenix are looking for more home joy as they return to Wellington.
A couple of blips aside, everyone knows that Wellington Phoenix are unbelievable at home. Westpac has long since been a fortress that is tough to penetrate, but they also seem to have as much joy when they switch their home venue to AMI Stadium.
For the second time this year, Phoenix toppled Adelaide in Christchurch and they did so in front of a big, boisterous and deafeningly noisy crowd. There is no doubting that the epic support from the 14,000 fans spurred the home side on to come from behind to secure a massively dramatic win thanks to a 94th minute Ben Sigmund header.
Now, as they return to their more familiar stomping ground, Ricki Herbert-s lads will be looking to be inspired by similar passion from the Fever Zone as they take on one of the Hyundai A-League-s most in-form sides.
They-ll certainly need their fans to give them a lift, as another trip over the ditch ended in disappointment last week. As is often the way on their travels, the white flags were once again raised with little resistance, as Gold Coast United eased to a comfortable 2-0 win on a rain-sodden Saturday night at Skilled Park.
The frustrating thing for Phoenix is that if they could find any kind of consistency on the road - or just win more than one away game in a blue moon - they would be dead certainties for a top six finish and would perhaps even threaten the top two.
However, because of their repeated failure away from New Zealand, every home game takes on the importance of a cup final as they bid to hang on to their top six place. And so, this match against one of their rivals for a spot in the Grand Finals is sure to be another nail-biter and, considering the form their opponents have shown lately, is anything but a sure-fire home win.
Newcastle Jets are the team to watch right now. Ahead of Wednesday-s tough home game against Gold Coast United, they found themselves in the enviable position of having gone six games unbeaten and occupying the coveted sixth place in the table.
The most worrying aspect for their opponents this weekend is that their last two wins have come away from home. A 2-0 triumph in Townsville was followed by the same result against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park. Even more impressive was the fact that they achieved this second away win on the trot despite playing for much of the game with ten men.
Jobe Wheelhouse-s harsh sending off only seemed to strengthen the spirit of the Jets, who went on to triumph thanks to Francis Jeffers- landmark first goal for the club and Marko Jesic-s cool finish.
Branko Culina will be looking for similar mental strength from his side as they bid to continue their remarkable transformation from crisis club to potential trophy winners by picking up their third away win in a row at one of the toughest places to visit on the Hyundai A-League map.
They-ll go into the game in the knowledge that they have already got the better of Phoenix once in the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season. In front of over 12000 fans back in November, Marko Jesic-s second-half goal was the difference between the sides.
Something has to give as a fantastic home record clashes with a team in fine away form. It-s a big six-pointer as both teams look to further their chances of making it into the top six at the end of the season. Who will prevail? There is one way to find out; head down to Westpac Stadium and experience this vital battle live!