PREVIEW: Nerve-jangling weekend for Wellington Phoenix women

posted in: A-League (Women), News

The Wellington Phoenix are wary of a “dangerous” Canberra United side and their “nothing to lose mentality” ahead of their crunch round 21 women’s A-League match in Australia’s capital.

The Phoenix need to beat Canberra at McKellar Park on Sunday afternoon and hope results go their way elsewhere on Saturday to remain in the hunt for a place in the Liberty A-League finals.

Canberra sit at the bottom of the A-League ladder and are out of reckoning for the top six, but they one of the best attacking teams in the competition.

Only a resurgent Melbourne Victory have scored more goals than United, and Victory have played an extra game.

Michelle Heyman is congratulated by Nickoletta Flannery after scoring her 100th A-League goal.

They also boast two top 10 goal scorers in Michelle Heyman (14) and Vesna Milivojevic (9), while Heyman and Nickoletta Flannery are second on the assists chart.

“They have this nothing to lose mentality and we know, because we played them not too long ago, that they’re dangerous,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media after training on Friday.

“They’ve got Flannery, Heyman and Milivojevic, who have been consistently good in terms of assists and goals this season.

“When that attacking threat is let loose and essentially ‘you can just go out and play’ there’s a danger to that you have to be very aware of.

“Even though they’re sitting at the moment at the bottom of the table they’re very capable of beating anybody.

“We have to be aware of those things, like we were against Adelaide, and I think the first goal and how you kick on from there is so important in terms of the management of the match.

“We’ll obviously be trying to start well and try and get on top early.”

The Nix beat Adelaide United 4-0 at Porirua Park on Wednesday to keep their finals hopes alive.

“It was great to get four goals, a clean sheet and to play well with control and dominance in a lot of the game. That stuff does breed confidence.

“What was good from our perspective is we were pretty clinical with our chances and that’s not always been the case this season.

“I think that’s a good step forward for us as a team in terms of what we can create and how we finish them off. That gives confidence for us going into Sunday.”

Michaela Robertson made a big impact after coming off the bench on Wednesday, scoring one goal and helping create two others.

Temple believes his substitutes will again have a big role to play on Sunday.

“There’s a skill to that (providing an impact off the bench) and there’s an ability to be able to do that well.

“I think we had that at the start of the season and then we had the middle part of the season when, maybe the results weren’t as good, we didn’t have the same kind of impact off the bench.

“Recently we’ve had that, and it’s really taken our team performances to a different level because you need that in football, you need your squad.

“Since the Perth game our impact off the bench has been fantastic so we need that again on the weekend.”

Robertson replaced Mariana Speckmaier shortly before the hour mark on Wednesday, but Paul Temple has allayed any injury concerns surrounding the Phoenix’s top goal scorer.

Mariana Speckmaier (left) … leads the goal count for her club this season. Photo credit: Natural Light Photography Company.

“She’s good. She’s still a little bit sore today with the amount of minutes she’s played after coming back, so we’ll just manage her for the next few days and she’ll be good to go Sunday.”

The Phoenix enter the penultimate round in eighth, two points behind the seventh-placed Newcastle Jets and five points behind Western Sydney Wanderers, who currently hold the last of the finals places.

To take the battle for the top six into the final round, Wellington need Western Sydney to drop points against Western United on Saturday and Newcastle Jets to slip up against either Melbourne Victory on Saturday or Adelaide United next week.

“Maybe we’ll watch it as a team and all suffer together watching it for 90 minutes through your hands, or maybe we’ll go and play golf or go bowling or something and look at the score later, I don’t know.

“When something’s out of your hands it’s horrible to be watching, but it is what it is.

“I think everyone’s got their own different motivations. Obviously, Victory and Western are still in the title race [and] Jets and Wanderers want to get in the six. There is so much riding on these games and I think the quality of the teams they could go either way.

“It’s out of our control and we’re just going to have to deal with the brutality of watching it and waiting for the result to come through.

“Hopefully, they go in our favour, and we can go into Sunday with still something to play for. That will obviously give us huge motivation for the game.”

Past meetings

Most recent meeting: 28 January 2024 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Canberra United 0

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 3W, Canberra 1W & 0D.

How to watch

The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.


Game to be played on Sunday March 24, 2024

Canberra United v Wellington Phoenix
McKellar Park, Canberra, 4pm (NZT)


Table at 2pm (NZT) on Saturday March 23.


Canberra United (four to be omitted)

1. Chloe LINCOLN (gk), 2. Alex MCKENZIE, 3. Sarah CLARK, 4. Holly MURRAY, 5. Emma ILIJOSKI, 6. Ava PIAZZA, 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. Ruby NATHAN, 10. Mary STANIC-FLOODY, 11. Deven JACKSON, 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON, 15. Hannah MCNULTY 16. Maddy WHITTALL 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 18. Coco MAJSTOROVIC (gk), 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY, 20. Lillian SKELLY, 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (c), 28. Tegan BERTOLISSIO.

Unavailable: 7. Maria ROJAS, 12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG, 14. Maia CAMERON, 24. Georgia RITCHIE (gk).

Wellington Phoenix (four to be omitted)

1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Isabel COX, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 19. Liv INGHAM, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk), 26. Tiana JABER, 27. Helena ERRINGTON.

Unavailable: 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk) (personal reasons), 23. Rebecca LAKE (injured).


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

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