Preview: Wellington v Newcastle
Newcastle is looking to climb off the bottom of the table as it takes on Wellington at Westpac Stadium, but coach Branko Culina knows he has his work cut out for him as the Phoenix haven't lost at the Sardine Tin yet this season.
Date: Wednesday November 4 Kick-off: 8:00pm NZST, 6:00pm 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.co.nz
Head-to-head Played 7: Wins: Wellington 3, Newcastle 3, Draws: 1
Previous meeting Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium, Round 1, August 2009
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 9: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Skilled Park Round 11: North Queensland 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 6, Gold Coast United 0, Westpac Stadium Round 13: Sydney FC 3, Wellington Phoenix 1, Sydney Football Stadium
Newcastle Jets: Round 8: Newcastle Jets 0, Perth Glory 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 9: Adelaide United 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 11: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 12: Newcastle Jets 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 13: Brisbane Roar 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Suncorp Stadium
Analysis: Newcastle is looking to climb off the bottom of the table as it takes on Wellington at Westpac Stadium, but coach Branko Culina knows he has his work cut out for him as the Phoenix haven't lost at the Sardine Tin yet this season.
In a particularly close season, both sides are on 13 points but Wellington enjoys the luxury of a better goal difference and is sitting in eighth ahead of Brisbane and the last-placed Jets. But, with most teams scrapping it out on a congested table, Newcastle would climb into seventh with a win, while Wellington could leapfrog Adelaide into the top six as both teams play off the Round 10 match that was postponed due to New Zealand's World Cup qualifier against Bahrain.
Phoenix fans will probably be more optimistic than their Jets counterparts, though. After a frustrating run of draws, the Wellington side burst the floodgates against Gold Coast United in Round 12, smashing the league new boys with a 6-0 result, the equal-best win in competition history. While a repeat of that may be a little far-fetched, as Wellington had struggled to score up to that point, the hosts must be confident they have the firepower to account for a Newcastle side that Jets coach Culina has conceded is a 'work in progress'.
Wellington gaffer Ricki Herbert, will be anxious to get a good result here as his side didn't maintain the momentum it created through the Gold Coast win. Instead it hit a sky-blue roadblock in the form of Sydney FC, who dismantled the New Zealanders 3-1 on Sunday afternoon. While Sydney's three goals were all quality efforts, each one created by Alex Brosque exposing Wellington for pace down the left, the Phoenix certainly had their chances. Paul Ifill had one first-half attempt miraculously cleared off the line, while Daniel saw a re-taken penalty claimed by Clint Bolton after the Brazilian had put away his first effort.
Herbert knows his side could possibly have pulled off a draw against Sydney and as a result, hasn't made any changes to his side. But the coach will be sweating on Mark Paston's fitness, as the 'keeper was forced off with a rib injury last Sunday and is only a 50-50 proposition.
Culina is more than aware he doesn't have anyone in his side with Brosque-like pace, especially after losing Ben Kantarovski to international duty. Instead, the Jets will have to work their way forward, although they'll be doing it without Fabio Vignaroli, as he's out with a calf injury and suspended defender Adam D'Apuzzo. Imposing defender/midfielder Ljubo Milicevic has been recalled to the side after a three-week absence with a heel injury but may not be ready for the trip across the Tasman just yet.
The Jets, however, will take heart from the fact they pulled off a nailbiting 3-2 win over the Phoenix last time they met in Round 1, with Jason Hoffman scoring twice. Newcastle's forward division has been strengthened substantially since then as Michael Bridges and Labinot Haliti have already formed a productive partnership up front. The pair will have to be at the top of their game, though to steal the points from a Phoenix side hell bent on establishing Westpac Stadium as the league's most imposing venue.
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
Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - indefinite)
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS
*one to be omitted*
In: Ljubo MILICEVIC (returns from injury), Jason HOFFMAN (promoted), Ali ABBAS (promoted)
Out: Adam D-APUZZO (suspended - 1 week), Ben KANTAROVSKI (international duties) Fabio VIGNAROLI (calf - 1 week)
Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Sean ROONEY (illness - 1 week), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)