Soccer: Ifill looking to get one over Smeltz

By Kris Shannon

Paul Ifill. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Ifill. Photo / Getty Images

It will be a battle of heroes past and present in Wellington on Saturday, as Perth's Shane Smeltz and the Phoenix's Paul Ifill do battle.

And it's not just three points for their respective team on the line - Ifill needs only one goal to overtake Smeltz as the club's all-time leading scorer.

Both players have netted 21 times for the club and Ifill admits he would take pleasure in poaching the record from the former Phoenix fan favourite.

"We are different types of players but it would be pleasing to get the Phoenix record off him," Ifill said. "I'm lucky he can't get any more for the club. If I stay fit, the goal will come eventually."

Perth sits in fifth place, only four points ahead of the Phoenix, meaning a victory for the home side would further condense a tight battle for top six placings. But the battle between the strikers shapes as an intriguing sub-plot to the match.

Smeltz scored 21 goals from 39 games spanning the Phoenix's first two seasons, winning the A-League's golden boot award in 2009 before leaving for Gold Coast United.

Barbados international Paul Ifill was brought into Wellington to replace Smeltz, and has since done an admiral job in filling the All White's boots. He's in his third season at the club, with his 21 goals coming from 54 games, and it's now a matter of when, not if, Ifill surpasses Smeltz.

Talking about the duel between the two men, it's obvious Ifill holds his fellow striker in high regard.

"I think Shane is the best striker in the league," he said. "His goal to game record is exceptional and he is the type of player who doesn't seem to be doing much and suddenly he has put the ball in your net."

Smeltz has shown that form both for and against the Phoenix, having scored three times opposing the Wellington club since his departure, including the only goal of the game in Perth's round three win over the Nix.

Ifill predicts the Wellington back four will have to be on their toes against both Smeltz and his strike partner Billy Mehmet, who spent time in the Phoenix camp in pre-season before joining Perth.

"That pair will make things tough for our back four," he said. "I don't think the best has been seen of Billy yet. He has lost weight since he trialled with us and is looking sharper.

"It is up to the rest of us to take some pressure off the defence by scoring goals."

If Ifill's the man to do that he will officially become the most potent marksman in the club's five seasons, but he pointed to another potential candidate for that title.

"Brownie (Tim Brown) is only one goal behind Smeltzy and myself and if he scores two on Saturday and overtakes us both I'll be the first to congratulate him."

While the Yellow Fever, in particular, would delight in sending Smeltz back to Perth less one record, Ifill said the most important thing was securing three points.

"It doesn't matter who scores as long as someone puts the ball in the net," Ifill said. "We had some good chances last week [a 1-0 loss to Melbourne Heart] and didn't take any so everyone needs to step up."

The game kicks off at 5pm on Saturday at Westpac Stadium.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 29 Jul 2014 23:39:41 Processing Time: 420ms