Preview: Wellington v North Queensland
The past two games between these sides have finished in 1-1 draws so it may be foolhardy tipping against another such result. But this time around, the stakes are so much higher as the season draws towards a close and both teams will be desperate for a win when they line up in Wellington on Friday night.
Date: Friday January 15 Kick-off: 7:30pm NZDT, 5:30pm AEDT, 4:30pm AEST Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1HD & 1 and Sky Sport 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 2 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Wellington 0, North Queensland 0, Draws: 2
Previous Meeting North Queensland 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium, October 2009
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 18: Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney FC 1, FMG Stadium Round 20: Adelaide United 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 21: Central Coast Mariners 0, Wellington Phoenix 2, Bluetongue Stadium Round 22: Wellington Phoenix 3, Brisbane Roar 1, Westpac Stadium
North Queensland Fury: Round 18: North Queensland Fury 1, Perth Glory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 19: Brisbane Roar 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 20: Newcastle Jets 3, North Queensland Fury 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 22: Central Coast 1, North Queensland 1, Bluetongue Stadium
Analysis: The past two games between these sides have finished in 1-1 draws so it may be foolhardy tipping against another such result. But this time around, the stakes are so much higher as the season draws towards a close and both teams will be desperate for a win when they line up in Wellington on Friday night.
This certainly appears a season-defining games for both sides. The Fury and Phoenix both come into the clash with some decent form behind them. North Queensland defeated Melbourne over the Christmas period and should have beaten Central Coast in the last round, the Mariners holding on for a 1-1 draw despite being under siege for much of the second half.
Wellington, meanwhile, has overcome a four-match winless run in style, beating the Mariners just after Christmas and following that up with a huge win over Brisbane, the Phoenix's first win over the Roar, in a 3-1 result last weekend. Although Wellington was responsible for the biggest win of the season, a 6-0 thrashing of Gold Coast in Round 12, in the four weeks before playing the Mariners, the club was struggling with its forward set-up. With Chris Greenacre injured and missing the past five games, Paul Ifill was required to play the out-and-out striker, a position that doesn't always seem to suit the Barbados international. However, despite Greenacre being included in the side for this weekend's game, there is a possibility coach Ricki Herbert may give him an extra week to recover from his knee injury, especially after Eugene Dadi made such a spectacular debut for the Phoenix last weekend.
The big Frenchman may have been on the outer at Perth after finding himself behind Branko Jelic, Mile Sterjovski and Jamie Harnwell in the Glory pecking order. But he made up for lost time this season in fine style as he scored twice in his Wellington debut, his second-half scissor kick surely the goal of the season. Dadi, though, demonstrated that with good service from the wings he remains particularly dangerous, something the Glory sometimes struggled to provide in the games he played this season. But with Ifill, Leo Bertos and Adrian Caceres there to supply the crosses, it wouldn't surprise to see Dadi find the back of the net more often for his new side.
Herbert certainly won't just be relying on Dadi to supply the goals as he's named a particularly attacking squad with young gun Costa Barbarouses and Daniel also included along with Greenacre, in the extended squad.
North Queensland coach Ian Ferguson, meanwhile, has also promoted three players to his extended squad in versatile youngster Rostyn Griffiths, livewire winger Fred Agius and new signing Jimmy Downey, who crosses from Perth in exchange for want-away striker Daniel McBreen. Despite scoring three goals this season, McBreen found himself behind Dyron Daal in the Fury pecking order and requested a short-term move to Perth ahead of transferring to Central Coast next season. McBreen, midfielder Robbie Middleby (illness) and Beau Busch (omitted) all come out of Ferguson's squad, with Middleby's presence sure to be missed.
The Fury were stiff not to take more than a single point from Bluetongue Stadium last weekend after smashing the Mariners in the second half. But Ferguson will be more than aware a win in this encounter will see his side overtake Perth and climb into sixth position on the Hyundai A-League table. However, opposition wins in Wellington are rarer than Kevin Muscat smiles, the Phoenix having not been beaten at Westpac Stadium since October 2008, their one 'home' loss occurring last month in Palmerston North. Wellington, too will be desperate for a result as the fifth-placed Kiwis, along with Perth, appear the most vulnerable sides in the six to those aiming to creep up from below. As a result, we could be in for a cracking encounter to start the round.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 40.Liam REDDY (gk), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Tony LOCHHEAD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.DIEGO, 6.Tim BROWN, 7.Leo BERTOS, 8.Paul IFILL, 9.Chris GREENACRE, 11.DANIEL,13.Troy HEARFIELD, 14.Adrian CACERES, 15.Eugene DADI, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 20.Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Costa BARBAROUSES
*three to be omitted
In: Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted), Chris GREENACRE (Return from Injury), DANIEL (Return from Injury)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (knee - Indefinite)
North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2.Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3.Chris TADROSSE, 6.Ufuk TALAY, 7.Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 10.Jeremy BROCKIE, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 15.Fred AGIUS, 16.Paul KOHLER, 20.Justin PASFIELD (gk), 23.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 24.Dyron DAAL, 25.Grant SMITH, 26.Matt SMITH, 27.Terry COOKE, 28.James DOWNEY
In: Fred AGIUS (promoted), Rostyn GRIFFITHS (promoted), James DOWNEY (new signing)
Out: Robbie Middleby (Illness), Beau BUSCH (not selected) Daniel MCBREEN (Released),
Unavailable: Jacob TIMPANO (hamstring 2 - 4 weeks), Scott WILSON (knee - indefinite), Shane STEFANUTTO (knee - indefinite), David WILLIAMS (hamstring 2 - 4 weeks), James ROBINSON (knee- indefinite), Karl DODD (knee - indefinite).