Soccer: Phoenix have a chance to push for the playoffs

By Terry Maddaford

One of six teams chasing the last two spots in the top six for the play-offs, the Phoenix have three of those matches against similarly placed teams. Photo / Getty Images
One of six teams chasing the last two spots in the top six for the play-offs, the Phoenix have three of those matches against similarly placed teams. Photo / Getty Images

The results of five games in 24 days will almost certainly decide the Wellington Phoenix's fate in the A-League.

One of six teams chasing the last two spots in the top six for the play-offs, the Phoenix have three of those matches against similarly placed teams.

The last three of that five-match spread will be played at home although one, the March 3 battle with Melbourne Heart, will be under the roof in Dunedin.

On Thursday night they are at Bluetongue Stadium to play leaders Central Coast and 10 days later meet Brisbane at Suncorp in the last match of round 21.

Central Coast, who finished 2-2 with Brisbane Roar on Friday, have lost only two of 19 games this season but have been well-tested by the Phoenix.

In round six the Mariners won 1-0 at Westpac Stadium and six weeks later returned to the capital for a 1-1 draw.

Until that draw just before Christmas, the Phoenix had lost six in a row to the Coasters, including four at home.

They will find it hard on their first trip to Gosford this season where they will again be pitted against in-form All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey, who put his side ahead early in the game against Brisbane.

The hosts, with two second-half Besart Berisha goals, led until the 81st minute when golden boot leader Daniel McBreen thumped home the equaliser and his 14th goal of the season.

He is three ahead of All Whites Jeremy Brockie and Marco Rojas.

Herbert still needs more from his Phoenix strikers if they are to claw their way into play-off contention.

At barely a goal a game in scoring 22, only bottom-placed Perth, with 18, have found the opposing net on fewer occasions.

In the only all-top-four meeting of round 20, Adelaide United, who have lost their mojo as well as coach John Kosmina, entertain the Victory on Friday night.

The Victory won the round three clash 2-1 at home with Adelaide, also at home, winning 4-2 seven rounds later.

The Sunday fixture between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar to be played at Allianz Stadium promises plenty.

Both teams are on 21 points with the Queenslanders comfortably ahead on goal difference.

- NZ Herald

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