Suspension forces rejig of Phoenix rearguard for Friday’s A-League match

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The Wellington Phoenix will rejig their defence for Friday night’s A-League game against Central Coast Mariners as they continue their push for a place in the play-offs.

Right back Callum Elliott is suspended for the match, having picked up his fifth yellow card, but experienced defender Scott Wootton is in line to return at centre back, having trained fully with the squad this week, returning from injury.

Head coach Ufuk Talay said All Whites defender Tim Payne “will have to slide across” to right back.

The Phoenix conclude their February on the road with a visit to Gosford to play Central Coast Mariners who are second on the isuzu-UTE A-League table.

The Nix enter round 18 in fifth place, just three points behind the Mariners and ahead of Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets on goal differential.

“The table’s so tight you win one game you go up and if you lose one game you can fall out of the six,” Talay told media on the eve of the match.

“The table is very close and for us to push forward and really try to cement a spot in the top six, and even push towards that top four, I think this game is very important for us to walk away with three points.

A-League standings

Talay: ‘They’re a difficult side to play against’

“Every game’s important at the moment. Every game is a big game.

“We’ll go there to set up to win and hopefully get a good result, but if we lose it’s not the end of the world, we’ve still got a few more games to play within the season.”

Wellington beat Central Coast 2-1 at Sky Stadium last month, but were humbled 5-0 by the Mariners in their last visit to Gosford in April last year.

“I think they’re a very good side,” Talay said. “They’re a difficult side to play against. They load the frontline with a lot of players.

“It pins you back as a team at times, but … in our home game against them I thought the first half we were quite good. We pinned them into their half, even when they had the ball. We pressed quite well so we’ll try to do that again.

“They’re playing at home and obviously they want to win so they might pressure us a little more playing at home. That’s great for us. That means there will be more spaces in other areas and the boys need to make the right decisions.”

Talay wants his players to continue where they left off in Tasmania last Friday night, when they bounced back from disappointing back-to-back defeats to beat Western United 3-0.

“The Western United game was a good game in the sense that we did both sides of the game well.

“We did well with the ball and I thought we also defended quite well for the full game.

“I think we’ve had moments where we’ve played really good football and then we’ve tapered off and let opponents come into the game.”

Visa signings Yan Sasse, Bozhidar Kraev and Oskar Zawada scored the Phoenix’s goals against Western United.

“We bring in our visa players to make the difference and at the moment they are for us.

“If they’re not going to add value or add a difference to the team, then there’s no point having visas.

“For us, it’s very important they do add value and they’re doing that at the moment and hopefully they continue that way.”

Sasse has taken a little longer than Kraev and Zawada to settle in Wellington, but Talay believes the Brazilian’s benefitting from getting a good run of games.

“I always knew Yan was a good player. I could see in the touches and the things that he does.

“Getting rewarded with a goal has probably helped his confidence as well.”

The team had a delayed start to the week, with their flight home on Saturday night cancelled, meaning they didn’t return to Wellington until Sunday evening.

“We had to modify what we did this week with the boys. They seemed a little bit tired after sitting at the airport probably for over 12 hours.

“We modified what we did this week just to make sure they’re fresh for the game.”


Game to be played on Friday February 24, 2023

Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix
Industree Group Stadium, Gosford (9.45pm NZT)

How to watch

The game will be broadcast on Sky Sport 2 and 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Past meetings

Most recent A-League meeting: January 22, 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Central Coast Mariners 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 19W, Mariners 18W & 8D.


Wellington Phoenix

3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7 Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. Nikko BOXALL, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 35. Noah KARUNARATNE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).

Unavailable: 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (injured), 17. Callan ELLIOT (suspended), 23. Clayton LEWIS (injured).


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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