Preview: Mariners vs. Phoenix

It’s Round 8 in the Hyundai A-League, and the Mariners are set to cross the Tasman to take on Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium. Kick-off is 5:35pm on Saturday night.

In great news for Mariners fans, captain Alan Baro is set to return after suspension to travel to New Zealand. For Wellington, Michael McGlinchey and Andrew Durante are available for selection after returning from All Whites duties.

Also on the plane to Wellington is exciting attacker, Blake Powell who is looking to complete his road to recovery after extended time on the sideline during pre-season.

Despite taking an early lead, a resilient Mariners were forced to accept a disappointing result against Adelaide United last Thursday. Wout Brama’s cool and collected spot kick in the first half put the Central Coast ahead 1-0 at half time, but a depleted Mariners couldn’t hang on against a goal-hungry Adelaide. A screaming equaliser from Adelaide’s Daniel Adlung in the second half and a stoppage-time goal to Ryan Kitto in extra time gave the visitors a 2-1 win.

With last week’s game against Western Sydney postponed, Wellington Phoenix have enjoyed nearly two weeks to recover since their last Hyundai A-League match, where they handed Perth Glory a resounding 5-2 defeat at Westpac Stadium.

Both teams have only notched a single win this season, but are steadily gaining momentum with strong performances in recent weeks.

The Mariners have racked up some impressive statistics that highlight the exciting possession-based football they can play. The Mariners boast the second highest passing accuracy with 79%, and are one of only two teams to have a passing accuracy of over 70% in opposition territory.

The last time the Central Coast took up a win against the ‘Nix on their home turf was back in January 2016, so the Yellow and Navy will be ready and raring to pick up a victory on New Zealand soil.

Opta Stat-Attack

  • The Mariners (71%) are one of only two teams (Wanderers, 74%) to enjoy a passing accuracy of greater than 70% in opposition territory this campaign.
  • Wellington are undefeated in their last six games on home turf (W2, D4), the last time they went longer at home without a loss was a nine-game stretch from October 2014 to March 2015 (W6, D3).
  • Wout Brama has made 430 passes this season, the second most of any player and just three shy of Josh Brillante (433).
  • The Phoenix boast a shot conversion rate of 18% this campaign, the second best of any team in the competition behind Newcastle Jets (20%).
  • Andrija Kaluderovic has scored four goals from just six shots on target when playing on home turf this season, only Bobô (5) has scored more home goals.

Paolo in the Press

Head Coach Paul Okon was asked about his side’s ability to score first in six out of their seven matches and why that hasn’t resulted in more wins.

“I think it’s a combination of many things, certainly not a lack of desire, I can’t fault the players on that.” Okon said. “When you’re winning the game, the opposition is always going to take a few risks and lift the intensity, and at times we haven’t dealt with that, we’ve forced things and been our own worst enemy. It’s been disappointing in that regard because we should have more points, but I would be worried a lot more if it was the other way around, and it was six games where we hadn’t been the team to score first. We know that it’s an area that we must improve, because if we can be better in it, we’re going to win more football games.”

The team will make the long trip to Wellington, but Paolo believes his team will be well-prepared to take on the ‘Nix at home.

“At this point in the season, after seven rounds, you have a fair idea of how the opposition is going to play and set up, there are no more secrets or surprises.” Okon said. “It’s a long trip for us, and we’re going a day earlier to make sure that we prepare as best as we can and we’ve got plenty of energy. It’s never an easy place to try and take the points, but we feel that we’re playing well enough and it’s a case of making sure we’re doing everything right on the day, because that’s what we’re going to need if we want to win,” Okon said.

Recent injuries to Storm Roux, Josh Rose and Asdrubal have forced changes for Okon’s squad. Roux and Rose remain unavailable, however Okon is confident that the team will be able to step up, especially with Captain Alan Baro set to return from suspension.

“Most teams have to deal with these situations, they happen at various times in the season,” Okon said. “Last week the boys who came in probably suffered with a little bit of fatigue, but we feel they performed well, and they’ll be better for the game time that they had. So, whoever starts on Saturday, we’re confident that they can play their part.

“It certainly wasn’t an excuse for us to lose last week, that happened for other reasons and we’re not going to use that excuse moving forward.

“It’s never easy when you’re missing important players like Alan, especially as he is the captain. So, to have him back is great, and it gives us a little more confidence to the team. You know at certain times you will be missing those key players, but going across to Wellington, we are delighted that he is back.” Okon said.

A welcomed return to the squad will be Blake Powell, who has been steadily returning to fitness after a long-term injury.

“Blake Powell has done fantastically well over the past few weeks, he’s put himself into a position now to be selected, physically he is in good condition.” Okon said. “We’re happy with how he is training and he certainly will be travelling with us to New Zealand.”

Central Coast Mariners Squad: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 4.Jake McGING, 5.Antony GOLEC, 6.Tom HIARIEJ, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Blake POWELL, 9.ASDRUBAL, 10.Daniel De SILVA, 11.Connor PAIN, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 13.Kwabena APPIAH, 14.Adam BERRY, 15.Alan BARO (c), 16. Liam ROSE, 17.Josh BINGHAM, 20.Adam PEARCE (gk), 21.Kye ROWLES, 23.Wout BRAMA

**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 8.Blake POWELL (return from injury), 9.ASDRUBAL (return from injury), 15.Alan BARO (return from suspension)

Outs: 19.Harry ASCROFT (not selected)

Unavailable: 2.Storm ROUX (ankle injury – 1 week), 3.Josh ROSE (calf injury – 1 week)

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 2.Daniel MULLEN, 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Goran PARACKI, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Dario VIDOSIC, 9.Andrija KALUDEROVIC, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 14.Alex RUFER, 16.Ali ABBAS, 19.Tom DOYLE, 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.MATTHEW RIDENTON, 30.Keegan SMITH (gk)
**two to be omitted**

Ins: 3.Scott GALLOWAY (promoted), 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY (returns from international duty), 22.Andrew DURANTE (returns from international duty)

Outs: 6.Dylan FOX (omitted)

Unavailable: Nil

Match Details
Saturday, 25 November 2017
Hyundai A-League Round 7
Match: Wellington Phoenix vs. Central Coast Mariners
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 5:35pm (AEDT)
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA
Hash-tag: Join the match conversation using #WELvCCM & #CCMFC