Soccer: Phoenix hunt glory in Perth

By Terry Maddaford

Phoenix players Stein Huysegems (l), Alex Smith (c) and Jeremy Brockie celebrate.
Phoenix players Stein Huysegems (l), Alex Smith (c) and Jeremy Brockie celebrate.

The Wellington Phoenix will be hoping the humiliation they witnessed in Perth on Thursday night when the New Zealand Breakers basketball team meekly went down by 25 points to the Wildcats is not repeated when they continue the transtasman rivalry against the Glory tonight.

The Phoenix have been in the Western Australian capital since Monday and welcomed the chance to be honoured as guests at the basketball game.

Already, there is a suggestion that will be reciprocated in early February when the Phoenix play the Glory at Eden Park on February 2 - the day after the Breakers and Wildcats square off at Vector Arena.

Buoyed by that much-needed rout away to Newcastle in Sunday's Hyundai A-League action, the Phoenix have trained well this week in Perth.

"We are free of injuries now with Stein Huysegems fit and back training," said coach Ricki Herbert.

"I'm not sure yet whether or not we will have him in the starting line-up but at least that option is there."

It has also been suggested that Vince Lia could force his way into the starting XI.

If that is the case, the Phoenix may go with a 4-3-3 formation with Lia joining Manny Muscat and Alex Smith in midfield thus leaving the attacking duties to four-goal hero Jeremy Brockie, Paul Ifill and one other.

It could be Huysegems gets a start but he would have to force his way in ahead of Louis Fenton and even Benjamin Totori who continues to improve with every outing.

The Perth fans would welcome the chance to see Totori in action after what they saw a few years ago when Henry Fa'arodo, another Solomon Islander, played a dozen games for the Glory.

Herbert's defensive selections remain automatic with Mark Paston playing in goal behind Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund, captain Andrew Durante and Tony Lochhead.

In snapping their losing run against the Jets, the Phoenix returned to the form they showed early in the season when they shaped as a genuine contender.

Playing in Perth is never easy but in giving themselves plenty of time to acclimatise, the Phoenix are as well-prepared as they have ever been.

After missing last week's loss - the upset 1-0 reversal at the hands of newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers - for personal reasons, former Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz will be back to lead the line as Ian Fergusson's men look to return to winning form at a ground where they have ruled for so long.

Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
nib Stadium
Tonight 11.45 (live SS1)
Referee: Strebre Delovski

- NZ Herald

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