Squad depth to be tested as Phoenix face heavy schedule

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Following the loss to the Central Coast last week, the last thing Ufuk Talay and his team needed was bad news.

Both of the Wellington’s first choice central defenders were substituted against the Mariners, which was cause for concern.

Luke DeVere has been since ruled out for 10-12 weeks with a serious knee injury. He went under the knife on Thursday afternoon. Joshua Laws also sustained an injury and was substituted before half-time. The club is waiting on results of an MRI from earlier on in the week, to determine the full extent of the injury.

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This news only piles on the misery for the Nix who are without all three of their primary strikers for at least this weekend’s match.

Tomer Hemed has a low-grade hamstring strain which will likely see him miss this weekend’s clash with Western Sydney.

Jaushua Sotirio is also out for four more weeks after he picked up an MCL injury in training last week.

David Ball was handed a two-match ban for his straight red card on the weekend. A tackle that can only be deemed a ‘striker’s challenge’ on Matt Simon in last Sunday’s loss to the Mariners.

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The Nix face a packed schedule with three games in nine days. With several injury concerns, the squad’s depth will definitely be tested. Fortunately for Wellington they are able to fly their youth academy players in if necessary. Under current COVID-19 guidelines in New South Wales, travellers from New Zealand don’t need to quarantine.

During his mid-week press-conference, Ufuk Talay acknowledged the issue.

“Obviously we have several injury concerns at the moment with the squad, Which doesn’t help with the squad depth, especially with the run of games that we have coming up”.

The burden on the attack, at least, was eased with the signing of Charles Lokoli-Ngoy. The former Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar forward will join the side for the remainder of the season. Talay worked with Lokoli-Ngoy at Sydney FC and the 23-year-old trained with the Wollongong-based Phoenix during pre-season.

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“Charles will give us some energy forward, he’s strong and he’s quick and he likes to run in behind. He’s different and at the moment I think we’re lacking a bit of depth with the injuries we’ve had in our front third.”

It is a bit early to say that a run of games could be season defining, however in the case of the struggling Phoenix, it may be the case.

The character of this young Nix side will undoubtedly be tested in the next week or so. You cannot help but think that some good results in this busy next week, will restore some confidence. The return of influential midfielder Cameron Devlin for this run of three games in eight days comes as a much needed boost.

If the under-strength Phoenix pick up a couple of wins in the next three games, it will go a long way to help them kick on. They had a sluggish start last year and went on to have success, so willl be hoping they can emulate that once again.

Feature Image Credit: Speed Media

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Chris Ball
Football fanatic, supporting some, at times, hard to follow sides.