Roy Krishna’s second half red card in a 2-1 loss to Perth Glory may leave many fans wondering how the Wellington Phoenix will cope when they host Central Coast Mariners on January 14th.

Suspended for the match, the striker’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the Phoenix frontline with the Fijian scoring eight of the side’s 14 goals so far this season.

The side now heads back to Wellington for three successive home matches, with vital points on offer and the chance to claw their way back into a top six fight.

Enter Shane Smeltz.

35-years-old and back in Wellington, the striker made a solid start to life with his new team.

Laying on an assist for Krishna and generally causing problems for the Glory defence, it was a first half performance that echoed his younger self.

Although he now lacks the pace of a Krishna or a Kosta Barbarouses his intelligent movement saw him find terrific amounts of space in the lines of the Glory defence.

Opposition teams will be worried as he continues to regain match fitness.

Indeed, it was a performance marred only by fitness issues, understandable given Smeltz hasn’t played a competitive game for the better half of three months.

His drop off towards the end of the first half came in parallel with the Glory fight back.

The ‘Nix never looked the same once the legs went. Replaced on 60 minutes by Hamish Watson, they were never able to find the incisive edge that saw them dominate most of the first half.

Player and coach have highlighted Smeltz’s high fitness levels, suggesting he is feeling better than he was in his hay day.

The Phoenix need a player to help take the workload off of Krishna’s shoulders. The early signs suggest Smeltz provides the calm head, clear awareness and deadly finishing ability required deputise in Krishna’s place.

What happens following Krishna’s return is another question entirely.

If Smeltz continues to build upon the start he made in Perth last night, Brazilian import Gui Finkler may have to find a home deeper in midfield if he is to reclaim his place in the starting line-up.

Smeltz has scored an impressive 89 A-League goals throughout his career.

Expect to add to that tally before the season concludes.

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