Melbourne City vs. Wellington Phoenix  1 - 1


Garcia primed for under-strength Phoenix

11 October 2012 06:52

Melbourne Heart midfielder Richard Garcia denies his team are facing the unknown when they play a decimated Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

Wellington head into the A-League clash at AAMI Park without first-choice players Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Jeremy Brockie, Ben Sigmund and Mark Paston who have all been called up to represent New Zealand in two World Cup qualifiers against Tahiti over the next five days.

Benjamin Totori is also unavailable as he will play for the Solomon Islands against New Caledonia and the Phoenix will also have to do without Paston's would-be replacement in goals, Glen Moss, as he has also been drafted into the All Whites squad.

To cap it all off, Wellington coach Ricki Herbert won't be pulling the strings as he is New Zealand's national coach.

But despite all that, Garcia insisted the Heart would focus more on what they had to do to make sure their winning start to the campaign continued after they beat cross-town rivals Victory in the season opener last week.

"We sort of approach the game like we'd approach any other game and just concentrate on us and make sure we're at our top," Garcia said after training at La Trobe University on Thursday.

Garcia insisted the Phoenix would still need to be respected as their fill-ins will be keen to put their respective cases forward for more regular game time.

"We've got to give them as much respect as we can, and play like we did against Victory and try get those three points," he said.

"I'm sure the players that come in to the team will be double eager to impress and hold their positions, so it's going to be a very tough game and I think that's what we're expecting."

One player in particular who the Heart will have to watch closely is returning star Paul Ifill who looks set to line up after overcoming knee and ankle injuries.

"He's done well everywhere he's gone, he's always scored goals, he's a very dangerous player and one we've got to watch out for," Garcia said.

Garcia played his first A-League match last weekend after 14 years in England and the former Hull City man said he was surprised at how fast and intense the Melbourne Derby was.

"It was quite a fast-paced game and it was quite intense so I quite enjoyed that," he said.

"I was expecting it to be a bit slower, but it was good that it was at that high intensity.

"That (the pace of the Melbourne Derby) was quite similar (to back in England), but (there were) probably just a few more turnovers than usual but that's to be expected when it's high-paced like that."


Durante takes Heart in rookies

11 October 2012 06:14

Andrew Durante knows he will have to shoulder a greater burden than usual in the Wellington Phoenix defence this weekend.

Durante, 30, will be surrounded by players making their A-League debuts against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon with regular starters Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund and Tony Lochhead away on international duty with New Zealand.

The Phoenix skipper acknowledges it will be a challenge for all concerned but is backing Luke Rowe, Michael Boxall, Cameron Lindsay and either Scott Basalaj or Jacob Spoonley in goal to succeed.

Rowe and Basalaj are part of the Phoenix school of excellence, Boxall and Lindsay have so far been on the fringes of selection while Spoonley has been brought in from Auckland City for the round two match.

"It's different," Durante said with a wry smile. "There's going to be some debuts for I think four or five boys which doesn't generally happen in one game.

"It's going to be a big challenge for them. It's going to be a big challenge for the senior players to make sure that the standard is high.

"We're definitely not going over there and conceding defeat. We want to go there and win the game. I think we'll give it a good crack."

The central defender said communication would be the most important thing, given the lack of experience and time together the defensive group had.

"With Lochie (Tony Lochhead), myself and Siggy (Ben Sigmund) we've got a really good understanding and sometimes we don't even need to talk and things happen for us," Durante said.

"It's going to be difficult. There is going to be a lot of talking and a lot on my back to make sure it's organised.

"But I've got a lot of confidence (in them). Boxall is a fantastic centre-half anyway. Rowe is a young boy who's come through the Birmingham system and is a very good young talent as well and probably unlucky not to be one of the boys to be called up into the senior squad.

"Cam has been around for a long time as well. So although they are going to make their debuts they are definitely good enough to play at this level."

Rowe, who was born in England and grabbed the attention of Birmingham City at the age of 13 then rose through the junior ranks to reserve grade until he was released last year, said his focus would be on doing the basics right on Sunday.

"I've got to try and get on top of them (Heart wingers David Williams and Mate Dugandzic) early and stop them from running at me really," the 21-year-old left-back said.

"When I start to do them (the basics) right I'll gain a bit of confidence and try and go forward from there."

Assistant coach Chris Greenacre, who retired from playing at the end of last season, said his message to the young players was 'go and enjoy it'.

"You're playing in the A-League. Everyone will remember your debut. It's the best time of your career. I wish I could have my time again and be out there with them," he said.

"It's a great opportunity, playing against a good side at a great stadium with great fans. What an occasion to go and show New Zealand and the rest of Australia what you're capable of.

"It will be a great opportunity for them and I'm sure they'll do very well."


Phoenix forced to call on reserves

8 October 2012 07:32

Wellington Phoenix will have at least four debutants in their starting line-up against Melbourne Heart on Saturday.

The scheduling of A-League games during World Cup qualifying rounds means seven players who were in the squad for the Phoenix's 2-0 win over Sydney will be missing for the round two trip across the Tasman.

New Zealand play Tahiti in Papeete on Saturday and again in Christchurch on Tuesday, while Benjamin Totori will be in action for the Solomon Islands as well.

It is a frustrating situation for the club which made submissions to Football Federation Australia to have the match rescheduled but were turned down.

"The biggest thing is that it's disappointing that the A-League won't give us time off," said defender Ben Sigmund, one of six All Whites who will miss the Heart match.

"It just seems pathetic. It's just annoying for everyone."

With goalkeepers Mark Paston and Glen Moss, defenders Leo Bertos, Sigmund and Tony Lochhead, plus striker Jeremy Brockie all on All Whites duty it has left the defensive ranks particularly thin.

Academy players, goalkeeper Scott Basalaj and left-back Luke Rowe, are expected to start at AAMI Park as are uncapped squad members Michael Boxall and Cameron Lindsay at centre-back and right-back, respectively.

With five injured players – Vince Lia, Lucas Pantelis, Jimmy Downey, Dani Sanchez and Mirjan Pavlovic – also unavailable, cover will be required on the bench too so academy duo Hamish Watson and Tom Biss could be handed one-match contracts as well.

"It's not only the seven who are going to be away but we've got four that aren't back training properly yet so that's a huge impact," said Herbert, who will hand the reins to assistants Chris Greenacre and Jonathan Gould for the match.

"We'll have to bring in some young players and integrate them into the team.

"But we'll be there. We'll front up. We've got three points to go and get against Melbourne Heart."

A-League table

# Team MP D P
1 27 +20 57
2 27 +26 54
3 27 +3 44
4 27 +1 41
5 27 +4 35
6 27 -2 32
7 27 -10 32
8 27 -15 31
9 27 -9 27
10 27 -18 27