Football: Nix must burn off the Jets

By Jason Pine

Wellington Phoenix team members congratulate Roy Krishna. Photo / Rory Scott
Wellington Phoenix team members congratulate Roy Krishna. Photo / Rory Scott

They're calling for final orders at the A-League's last-chance saloon.

Western Sydney's 3-1 win over Melbourne City on Friday night opened an eight-point chasm between the Wellington Phoenix and the playoff spots ahead of their clash with the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Anything less than a win will extinguish the Phoenix's chances of playing post-season football, and even victory would leave them probably having to win their remaining three regular season games and hoping the Wanderers drop points in their last three fixtures.

That's all ahead, though. All the Phoenix can do now is prepare for tonight's game.

Making that even more challenging is the absence of six front-line players on international duty. Leading scorer Roy Krishna is with Fiji for their World Cup qualifiers against an All Whites side that includes skipper Andrew Durante, goalkeeper Glen Moss, Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle and Shane Smeltz.

Furthermore, fullback Jacob Tratt is still absent for personal reasons, Louis Fenton remains sidelined with a long-term groin injury and James McGarry has glandular fever.

As a result, co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre will be forced to delve deep into their roster to assemble a competitive match-day squad.

"The ones we've got back here are all 100 per cent match fit, so we're as strong as we can be," said Greenacre.

"It gives guys who haven't had much game time the chance to go out there and really enjoy themselves by putting in a good performance and throw their name in the hat for team selection the following week. If I was in their shoes I'd be thriving at having the opportunity to play," he said.

Last weekend's 3-1 loss to Western Sydney dealt a serious blow to the Phoenix's top-six chances, leading Moss to remark afterwards that certain players weren't sticking to the game plan.

"You can talk about game plans and structures all you like, but it was a 'cup final' at the weekend and we didn't come out of the blocks for the first 20 minutes," said Greenacre.

"All the things that are necessary to put your mark on the game, we didn't do. You can dress it up as much as you like, but if you don't want to compete and do the ugly side of the game and do those one-percenters, you're not going to give yourself any chance whatsoever.

"There's no excuse for that - it just didn't happen," he said.

The Phoenix have a good home record against Newcastle, winning 10 and drawing three of their 16 previous meetings and restricting the Jets to just 12 goals in those 16 matches.

- Herald on Sunday

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