Wellington Phoenix super-sub Benjamin Totori has taken his time to find his niche in the A-League but the livewire attacker may just be up to speed now.
The Solomon Islands international looked threatening with the ball at his feet when he came off the bench for the Wellingtonians in their 1-1 draw with the Central Coast Mariners at the Cake Tin last night.
Totori's well-floated cross also laid on the Phoenix's late equaliser as Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez was able to connect with a header that erased the advantage Daniel McBreen's earlier goal had given the visitors.
Totori is by no means the finished article and his option-taking needs work but it's easy to forget that the 26-year-old has spent a majority of his career playing in amateur sides.
At only 1.67m tall and about 61kgs dripping wet, Totori does risk getting muscled off the ball in the physical A-League but as he learns to use his pace and dimensions to his advantage he could become a starting-quality player.
He has been prolific for the Solomons with 15 goals in 17 internationals but those numbers are yet to translate to the Phoenix as he searches for his maiden strike.
The former Waitakere United and YoungHeart Manawatu man said his self-belief was growing.
"For me, coming in to the A-League, it was in the back of my mind that it wasn't going to be easy," Totori said.
"It's going to be difficult for me, especially coming from the Islands. It's a big stepping stone for me so I know everything's going to be hard and it's going to be tough for me, but as time goes on I started to play and I'm getting better each week. So hopefully I perform every week.
"My confidence is growing and I can feel it as well."
Last night the Phoenix were picked off easily at times on attack as their cross-heavy approach was well defended by the Mariners' experienced centre backs, although rookies Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd were lively on the ball for Wellington.
Fenton and Boyd earned praise from Herbert and Mariners' coach Graham Arnold after the game, but both were unable to find a killer strike throughout the contest.
Totori's aggressive style gives the Phoenix a different dimension late in the game and he said the advice from Herbert as he entered the fray was the same each week.
"Nearly every time I go on he just says 'go do your thing, just play to your strength, use your speed and just go forward'."
Herbert was clearly pleased with Totori, and said that pace was a great asset to his side.
"For Benji, he's just lightning quick and I think that's great. He got the cross in and a good finish by Dani, so I think it just shows you can really benchmark the Central Coast game and I think defensively they're probably the best team in the league," Herbert said.
The 1-1 draw with the Mariners left the Phoenix in seventh place on the A-League ladder and they host the Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium on Thursday night.
The Heart, who lost 2-1 to the Melbourne Victory last night, will be without suspended centre backs Simon Colosimo and Patrick Gerhardt for the trip to the capital.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel