Jason Pine is Radio Sport's former football commentator

Football: Super stand-ins leave Nix coaches with selection poser

Striker Shane Smeltz may be used off the bench after leading the line on Tuesday. Photo / Marty Melville
Striker Shane Smeltz may be used off the bench after leading the line on Tuesday. Photo / Marty Melville

They say you shouldn't change a winning team.

If Wellington Phoenix co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre adhere to that old adage, it will mean leaving - among others - their captain, top goalscorer and first-choice goalkeeper on the bench for tomorrow's crucial A-League clash away at Melbourne Victory.

With Andrew Durante, Roy Krishna, Glen Moss and others absent through international duty, the Phoenix demolished the Newcastle Jets 5-0 last weekend.

Many of the players who replaced the regular starters enhanced their reputations, leaving Buckingham and Greenacre with tough choices.

"The players that came in stepped up and put in a really good performance and did themselves no harm at all," said Buckingham. "It's going to be a very hard selection problem for Chris and me. There's a few that will be an interesting call for us.

"This week's training has been key - it's their shirt to keep hold of and they need to apply themselves this week as they have done in the last couple of weeks. They can't afford to take their foot of the gas and let someone else come back in and take their spot."

In all likelihood, Durante, Krishna and Moss will come straight back into the starting 11, as should left-back Tom Doyle who had his best game in an All Whites shirt on Tuesday night against Fiji.

Michael McGlinchey - who hasn't played 90 minutes for the Phoenix in nearly five months - played two full games for the All Whites and is also in contention, while striker Shane Smeltz may be used off the bench after leading the line on Tuesday in the absence of skipper Chris Wood.

The reintroduction of the returning players may seem harsh on the likes of Dylan Fox, Lewis Italiano, Adam Parkhouse and Hamish Watson who deputised so impressively in their absence, but the reality is Victory will present a far greater challenge than the limp effort Newcastle Jets put up last weekend.

The Phoenix have won just once in 15 clashes with Victory in Melbourne and were hammered 6-1 on their last visit on Halloween night.

The hosts also welcome back four internationals - All Whites attackers Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham, leading goalscorer Besart Berisha and Socceroos midfielder James Troisi. That quartet has combined for 37 of Victory's 48 goals this season.

"We're very much aware of their threats," said Buckingham. "We've got nothing to lose this weekend, so we're going to go there and hopefully give a good account of ourselves and look to go for another win," he said.

- NZ Herald

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