The Wellington Phoenix have “a quiet determination” to avoid the Liberty A-League’s wooden spoon.
The Phoenix sit just one point behind the second-to-bottom Newcastle Jets heading into their round 18 match against the Perth Glory at Sky Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Nix have a game in hand over the Jets, who visit Adelaide United on Friday night, and boast a vastly superior goal difference.
Wellington have surpassed their points tally from their inaugural season and head coach Natalie Lawrence says it’s a huge goal of the team’s to avoid the wooden spoon.
“This group is incredibly determined and resilient and professional, and they know if we stick to our processes the outcome will look after itself, and we’re starting to see that now,” Lawrence told media on Friday.
“We know that we want to not be bottom of the league come the end of the season and it’s up to us really. We can dictate where we finish now.
“We have a quiet determination to do as much as we can to ensure we’re not bottom of the league.”
Ninth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers are also within the Phoenix’s reach. They are seven points above the Nix but have only two matches remaining.
“That is reliant on a lot of other things going our way too,” Lawrence said.
“It’s something that we always talk about, but the one thing we can control is there are 12 points on offer and how many points we can get from that.
“Now it’s about us getting as many points as we can from the final four games.”
Wellington want to carry on from where they left off in Sydney last Saturday, when they stunned the league leaders 1-0.
“Picking up points away at Sydney was huge for us and the team.
“We’ve got this determination to keep going. We have four games left, two at Sky Stadium and we have some pretty big goals to achieve.”
Lawrence: ‘Playing at home is really, really important’
Lawrence is relishing a return to Wellington, where the team is unbeaten in three matches in 2023.
“Playing at home is really, really important to us.
“We’ve spoken a lot as a group about making Sky Stadium our home and making it really, really hard for other teams to come here.
“We do talk about the fact that in three games since the start of the year we’re unbeaten there and that’s something that we want to continue for the rest of the season.”
The Phoenix are welcoming the Perth Glory women to the capital for the first time.
The Glory beat the Phoenix 2-0 in Perth in January.
“The travel takes its toll. They’re obviously used to some pretty long flights heading over to the other side of Aussie but they’ve now got an extra one.
“For us the time difference and the amount of time you’re on the plane or at an airport was tough to adjust to.
“[But] they’re on a great streak. They’re still chasing finals, they’re doing really, really well against some top sides in the league and we know they won’t use the travel as an excuse, like we don’t.”
The Glory were beaten 2-1 by Adelaide United last weekend, ending a six-game unbeaten run, which included four straight wins.
“I think it will be a pretty good match-up They’re riding a bit of a high. I know they lost to Adelaide at the weekend so they’ve got a lot to prove.
“It was a pretty interesting contest when we played them last. Obviously two red cards and they had two early goals. We really put them under a lot of pressure but just couldn’t quite get that goal.
“We’ll be focusing on ourselves again, focusing on what we can control and that’s us picking up as much point as we can on this lead-up to the end of the season.”
Natalie Lawrence has a near full-strength squad to pick from, with only club captain Lily Alfeld and midfielder Isabel Gomez side-lined with injuries.
Australian defender Claudia Cicco has returned from Kyrgyzstan, where she represented the Young Matildas, and is in the running to return to the matchday squad on Saturday.
Game to be played on Saturday March 18, 2023
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 5pm (NZT)
How to watch
The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sport Select and 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 15 January 2023 – Perth Glory 2 Wellington Phoenix 0
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Perth 3W & 0D
2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Emma ROLSTON, 17. Claudia CICCO, 18. Te Reremoana WALKER, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER, 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (injured).
1. Morgan AQUINO (gk), 3. Kim CARROLL, 4. Natasha RIGBY (c), 6. Tijan MCKENNA, 7. Liz ANTON, 8. Hana LOWRY, 9. Demi KOULIZAKIS, 12. Sofia SAKALIS, 13. Sarah CAIN, 14. Hannah BLAKE, 15. Cyera HINTZEN, 16. Isabella WALLHEAD, 17. Abbey GREEN, 18. Sadie LAWRENCE, 19. Izzy FOLETTA, 20. Sarah LANGMAN (gk), 21. Ella MASTRANTONIO, 23. Alana JANCEVSKI.
Unavailable: 10. Susan PHONSONGKHAM (injured), 11. Rylee BAISDEN (injured), 24. Milan HAMMOND (injured).