Talay uncertain on Ball injury prognosis
Wellington Phoenix boss Ufuk Talay concedes the extent of the injury to forward David Ball remains unclear following his side’s 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners.
The injury uncertainty casts a shadow on an otherwise positive afternoon for Phoenix fans, with Englishman in electric form for Wellington as they notched their fifth win from seven matches to move to fourth on the Hyundai A-League table.
The 30-year-old was everywhere in the first half for Talay's side - playing a crucial linking role in the build-up to Gary Hooper’s 13th minute opener, before netting his side’s second goal with a well-placed finish through a crowded penalty area in the 29th minute.
The Mariners pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time via an own goal, before Ball was forced from the contest in the 52nd minute with an apparent hip complaint, further shifting the balance of play to the visitors, who threatened without further reward for the remainder of the contest.
Speaking post-match, Talay admitted that he is unsure whether Ball will be available for his side’s upcoming clash next weekend with Western Sydney Wanderers at Sky Stadium.
"David Ball I think was exceptional. It was one of those things where I think he felt his hip flexor and it was a change I didn't want to make but at times in happens in the game," Talay said.
The Phoenix boss added: "I'm hoping that it's nothing major.
"He felt it, so we thought there was no point of continuing on - just come off instead of making it worse.
"It's too early to make a call but we'll find out in the next 48 hours where he stands."
Contrasting with the fitness concerns of Ball, Talay was pleased by the return of another of his English attackers – with ex-Celtic man Hooper notching an hour of game time in just his second start of the campaign following an injury-affected start to life in the Hyundai A-League.
“I'm pleased that he started and he got through the game unscathed, which is most important, and he scored his goal," he said.
"Reno [Piscopo] is away now so he gives us that firepower where we can actually play him up top.
“We played Uli [Davila] as a ‘number ten’, a little bit wider, but we have flexibility with Bally being able to drop into that spot as well."
Riding the tactical changes and injury concerns in his attacking third, Talay took a pragmatic perspective as his side ultimately held out a resurgent Mariners in the second stanza.
"At the end of the day, I'm happy about the three points but I wasn't pleased about the second half,” he explained.
"I think Ball coming off injured changed a few things for us. That wasn't in the game plan, but we adapted to it.
"We weren't great in the second half but we were good enough to keep them out and get the three points," he concluded.
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 11 January 2020
Kick off: 3.45pm local, 2.45pm AEDT