Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast
The Wellington Phoenix are quickly becoming the masters of the 1-1 draw, but the New Zealanders will be going all out to find their second win of the season against a Mariners outfit that appears to be moving from strength to strength.
Date: Sunday September 27, Kick-off: 4:00pm NZST, 2:00pm AEST Venue: Westpac Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington) and Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz
Head-to-head Played 6: Wins: Wellington 2, Central Coast 3, Draws: 1
Previous meeting Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium, Round 16, December 2008
Past five matches: Round 3: Brisbane Roar 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Suncorp Stadium 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
Central Coast: Round 3: Central Coast 0, Sydney FC 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 4: Brisbane Roar 1, Central Coast 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 5: Central Coast 2, Perth Glory 1, Canberra Stadium Round 6: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 7: Central Coast 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium
Analysis: The Wellington Phoenix are quickly becoming the masters of the 1-1 draw, but the New Zealanders will be going all out to find their second win of the season against a Mariners outfit that appears to be moving from strength to strength.
On paper, one wouldn't give Wellington much of a chance against Central Coast, after the Mariners proved the Gold Coast were human after all with a 3-0 thrashing last weekend. But, in this case, results over the first seven rounds are a little deceptive as the Phoenix have been incredibly unfortunate not to come away with wins over Adelaide, Melbourne and North Queensland over the past three weeks. For both teams then, this clash is particularly important, as Wellington is looking to get some well-earned points on the board in front of its home crowd, while Central Coast will be aiming to generate some winning momentum, as it hasn't been able to follow up any of its victories this season with wins the following week.
Wellington's cause hasn't been helped by losing midfielder Daniel to personal leave. Daniel's endured a mixed seven days as he was guilty of one of the season's worst misses last weekend. But any sadness over that is certain to be more than tempered by the arrival of a daughter, Luisa, over the last few days, with the Brazilian returning home to be by his wife's side. Former Mariner Adrian Caceres appears likely to take Daniel's place, but of more concern to Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert will be the fitness of English import Paul Ifill, who pulled up sore with a hamstring injury in the second half of last week's, you guessed it, 1-1 draw with the Fury. Ifill's been in blistering form, not only scoring goals but setting up chances for his team-mates and it was his cross that allowed Leo Bertos to find the back of the net last weekend. With Ifill in doubt, Herbert is keeping his option open, promoting Diego, Jiang Chen, David Mulligan, Marco Rojas and Costa Barbarouses to a squad that will have four omitted by game time.
For the Mariners, this is shaping as something of a danger game as Wellington, despite the results, are one of the more attacking sides in the competition, with Bertos' ability to run and beat opponents intrinsic to the Phoenix's game-plan. Wellington may also have an added incentive from something of a milestone, as the club chalks up its 50th match in the Hyundai A-League after rising from the ashes of the New Zealand Knights.
Despite losing Brad Porter to a minor thigh injury, Central Coast's back four remains pretty tough as the recently recruited Chris Doig and skipper Alex Wilkinson team up to add even more steel to a defence that's only conceded four goals this season, the best in the competition. They may have their work cut out for them, particularly if Ifill plays, but even if Wellington breaks through the rearguard, there's still Danny Vukovic to contend with between the sticks.
On top of is quality defence, Central Coast's midfield appears to be gelling nicely as John Hutchinson and Nicky Travis assist the talented Michel McGlinchey, playing in the hole behind strikers Matt Simon and Nik Mrdja. We all got the chance to see what happens when that combination clicks into gear last week as the Mariners dominated Gold Coast to an extent unseen so far this season. Admittedly, Central Coast made the most of its chances, firing home its three goals with clinical precision while United squandered its chances. But if the visitors keep up that type of work rate then the Phoenix could be in for one very tough afternoon at Westpac Stadium. That being said, Central Coast appears to be a little up and down this year, following up one good effort by taking the foot off the pedal the week after. But, with a very settled look about them, Lawrie McKinna's men will be gunning to climb even higher up the table by the end of this weekend.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 16. David MULLIGAN, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *four to be omitted*
In: DIEGO (promoted), Jiang CHEN (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Marco ROJAS (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted) Out: DANIEL (personal leave) Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - 4 weeks)
Central Coast Squad: 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK, 30. Matthew RYAN (gk).
In: Matthew CROWELL (new signing), Adam KWASNIK (promoted) Out: Brad PORTER (thigh - 1 week) Unavailable: Andrew REDMAYNE (international duty), Shane HUKE (knee - 2 weeks)