Soccer: Phoenix looking for winning run

By Kris Shannon

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante. Photo / Getty Images
Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante. Photo / Getty Images

The Phoenix still have a dozen games to come but the encounter with West Sydney Wanderers in Wellington on Sunday may just define their season.

A poor run of form has seen the Phoenix fall to ninth place in the A-League, though they are still just two points from the all-important top six.

If they are to avoid falling further from the pace-setters the Phoenix need to embark on a winning run - and this month may be the perfect time to do so.

After Sunday's match against the competition newcomers, Wellington will play the two sides who sandwich them in the bottom three. A win over the Wanderers could provide the impetus needed to take their opportunities against Sydney FC (tenth) and Newcastle (eighth) and propel the Phoenix up the ladder.

Phoenix captain Andrew Durante - who this week confirmed his desire to turn his back on native Australia and represent the All Whites - acknowledged the importance of his side emerging from their current mire.

"We've gone through a really tough patch at the moment," he said. "We've gone though them before but we've always come out.

"So it's a big game this this week; it's a game we really need to get the three points and get our confidence going. I'm pretty confident at home that we'll put on a good performance."

The Phoenix will have their work cut out for them if they are to manage that performance, with West Sydney coming into the game on the back of three wins in their last four games.

That form is in stark contrast to that of the home side, who have just one triumph in their last six attempts. The Phoenix did edge the first encounter between the sides, though, with a Jeremy Brockie goal proving enough to take the three points from the match at Westpac Stadium last month.

But the Wanderers have emerged from that clash in far better shape, beating Brisbane for the second time this season and putting six past second-placed Adelaide.

West Sydney have been something of a revelation in their first season in the competition and, with derby rivals Sydney FC languishing in last place, they have given football fans in Australia's largest city plenty to cheer about.

That has been the opposite for the Phoenix faithful, with just three victories from seven home games this term. If they are to make it four on Sunday, the Phoenix will have to rebound from last week's 2-0 loss against the Victory in Melbourne, but Durante said the last week in practice has boded well.

"There has been a lot of work to be done this week. It's been good, we had a really good session [on Thursday] and we've had a really good chat."

Businessman Gareth Morgan was part of that chat, with the owner taking an active role at Newtown Park as he keeps tabs on whether his call for attractive, flowing football has been heeded.

Also at training was new signing Ian Hogg who joined up with the team this week but will be unlikely to make the match-day squad just yet. The Phoenix will probably make one change from the team that lost to Melbourne, with Tyler Boyd returning from a one-game suspension and likely to replace Benjamin Totori.

- APNZ

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