Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Gold Coast United
Having clocked up more frequent flyer points than the roulettes in recent weeks, the Phoenix are looking forward to playing three of their next four matches at Westpac Stadium.
Date: Sunday October 25, Kick-off: 5:00pm NZST, 3:00pm AEDT Venue: Westpac Stadium 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
Head-to-head Played 1: Wins: Wellington 0, Gold Coast United 0, Draws: 1
Previous meeting Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Skilled Park, Round 9, September 2009
Past five matches: Round 7: Wellington Phoenix 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Westpac Stadium Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 9: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Skilled Park Round 10: To be played on November 4 against Newcastle. Round 11: North Queensland 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Round 7: Central Coast Mariners 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 8: Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Skilled Park Round 9: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Skilled Park Round 10: Brisbane 0, Gold Coast United 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 11: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 1, Skilled Park
Analysis: Having clocked up more frequent flyer points than the roulettes in recent weeks, the Phoenix are looking forward to playing three of their next four matches at Westpac Stadium in a bid to kickstart a season that just hasn't gained any momentum on the back of six consecutive draws. But whether they can do so on Sunday against a rejuvenated Gold Coast, playing with close to a full squad, remains to be seen.
This clash could easily be named the Smeltz Cup as the star striker makes his return to Westpac Stadium for the first time since crossing to Clive Palmer's new boys. While the man with the dodgy haircut will no doubt receive plenty of flak from the Phoenix fans, they'll still be secretly wishing he was wearing yellow and black this season. Indeed, it could be argued Wellington hasn't really recovered from losing Smeltz in the off-season, the club having scored just 10 goals this season, the same amount the striker's put into the back of the net to date. Smeltz's figures may be slightly inflated by the four goals he scored against the Fury in Round 2, when North Queensland's defence was still settling, but his absence has still left a real hole up front for the Phoenix that Ricki Herbert hasn't managed to cover.
Although Wellington boasts one of the toughest defences in the league, having conceded just 12 times, Herbert has to concentrate on where the goals are coming from as striker Chris Greenacre looks to break a five-match drought. Paul Ifill has shown he can be dangerous at times, while Leo Bertos is a conundrum for any coach to counter. But for all Wellington's attacking threat there's been little bite to it and Herbert will be desperately hoping his forwards can find a clinical finish to match their industry this week.
Herbert has brought in Adrian Caceres, Costa Barbarouses and Marco Rojas to a squad that will be cut by three come Sunday, while his opposite number Miron Bleiberg has promoted Matt Osman and Andrew Barisic, although it wouldn't surprise if he stuck with same team that beat Perth Glory 2-1 last week. The Western Australians were crook on some contentious decisions in the second half, but United should really have put the game to bed before half-time as Joel Porter failed to make the most of two great opportunities after Jason Culina's 13th-minute free kick deflected into goal to open. Porter, though, made up for his mistakes by sending in a pin-point cross for Smeltz to score the winner, showing that Wellington's defence will need all its nous to contain all the visitor's attacking threat.
Wellington achieved this last time these sides played at Skilled Park in a goal-less draw but United was still without Tahj Minniecon, Steve Pantelidis and Zenon Caravella for that clash, with all three set to play this week. But while the Gold Coast boasts plenty of quality in attack, its defence may be somewhat shaky as centre half Kristian Rees was exposed for pace on several occasions last week. Indeed, United looks at its best defending against teams playing the wings as Rees and Bas van den Brink have the height and strength to head the ball clear. But when the Glory started attacking them head on through the midfield last weekend, the central defence looked susceptible. The Glory didn't have someone with Bertos's pace either to take advantage of this chink in United's armour, but whether Lightning Leo and his mates can find that clinical edge and beat the impressive Jess Vanstratten between the sticks is the big question.
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, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES
*three to be omitted*
In: Adrian CACERES (return from injury), Marco ROJAS (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - 1 week), DIEGO (illness - 1 week)
Gold Coast United Squad: 1.Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.ROBSON, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 11.MILSON, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 19.Andrew BARISIC, 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk).
*two to be omitted*
In: Matt OSMAN (promoted), Andrew BARISIC (promoted).
Unavailable: JEFFERSON (knee injury - 1 week), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - 6 weeks), Richard GREER (groin injury - 4 weeks), Adama TRAORE (knee injury - 7 weeks)