Preview: Wellington v North Queensland
North Queensland makes its first-ever trip across the Tasman Sea to take on Wellington on Sunday it what looms as a big game for both sides after good results last week.
Date: Sunday September 20 Kick-off: 3:00pm NZST, (1.00pm AEST) Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington 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 Ticketek.
Head-to-head No prior meetings
Past five matches: Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium, 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
North Queensland: Round 2: Gold Coast United 5, North Queensland 0, Skilled Park Round 3: North Queensland 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Adelaide United 3, North Queensland 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 5: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 0, SFS
Analysis: North Queensland makes its first-ever trip across the Tasman Sea to take on Wellington on Sunday it what looms as a big game for both sides after good results last week. North Queensland caused perhaps the boilover of the season when it defeated Sydney 1-0 at the SFS, while Wellington is coming off a creditable draw in Melbourne.
In a battle of the Hyundai A-League's most northern franchise and its most southern, the weather could have a significant impact with the Fury flying into temperatures some 14-15 degrees colder than they would have been experiencing on the training track in Townsville.
The trip to Westpac Stadium has become one of the more difficult in the competition over the past year. The last time Wellington lost a game there was back in October last year, a streak of some eight matches. Ricki Herbert has made no doubts about his ambitions to make the Phoenix's home ground a fortress and that wish is starting to come to fruition.
Last week's 1-1 result in Melbourne was achieved thanks to the industrious approach of the New Zealand club, which went down a goal after just four minutes. For the rest of the game, they had by far the better chances with Tim Brown the only player to put one away. Paul Ifill continues to provide the athleticism and skill to really trouble opposition defences, while up the other end, Mark Paston had a relatively quiet night with the central defence doing a good job.
While Melbourne may be considered out-of-form, any point out of a trip to Etihad Stadium is a bonus, particular with several members of the team, including the coach, coming off a trip to Jordan for international duty.
The Phoenix defence suffered a blow in that match, with Jon McKain to miss the next month with a quad injury, while Herbert has looked to keep his options open by including Diego, Jiang Chen, Adrian Caceres (for what would be his first game), David Mulligan, Ben Sigmund and Costa Barbarouses.
North Queensland is coming off its first win, and what a win it was, upsetting Sydney on its home soil thanks to a wonderful strike from an in-form Robbie Fowler. Fowler has won the SOLO Goal of the Week for three weeks in succession and this was the best of them, a superb 30-yard thunderbolt which proved the difference between the teams.
The 33-year-old might enjoy the step back into more familiar weather conditions but he and coach Ian Ferguson know that the Fury can not just rely on their marquee man if they are going to be competitive.
Scottish defender Scott Wilson could play his first game after suffering an injury in the pre-season, and that is a big boost for the Fury. The 32-year-old former Dunfermline and Rangers centre-half was one of Ferguson's most highly-credentialed signings ahead of the debut year. Paul Kohler also returns from suspension.
Out go Dyron Daal, whose short contract with the club has ended, Osama Malik and Fred Agius, while Jeremy Brockie and Justin Pasfield are both probably a fortnight away.
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, 11. DANIEL, 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 *five to be omitted*
In: DIEGO (return from injury), Jiang CHEN (promoted), Adrian CACERES (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Ben SIGMUND (return from injury), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted) Out: Jon McKAIN (quad - 3 weeks) Unavailable: Nil
North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3.Chris TADROSSE, 4. Scott WILSON, 6.Ufuk TALAY, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 8.Shane STEFANUTTO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 11.David WILLIAMS, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 16.Paul KOHLER 18.James ROBINSON, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 21.John TAMBOURAS 22.Karl DODD, 23.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 30. Matt HAM *two to be omitted* In: Scott WILSON (return from injury), Paul KOHLER (return from suspension).
Out: Dyron DAAL (off contract), Osama MALIK (not selected), Fred AGIUS (not selected) Unavailable: Jacob TIMPANO (hamstring - indefinite), Jeremy BROCKIE (quadriceps - 2 weeks), Justin PASFIELD (rib injury - 1/2 weeks)