Depleted Phoenix struggling ahead of Wellington homecoming

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Wellington Phoenix continue to be dealt blows on and off the field.

With 11 goals conceded in two games and multiple players unavailable, their top six standing hangs in the balance with the surge of teams below.

A 5-0 thrashing by Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday evening forced the dagger deeper into the hearts of Phoenix.

Wellington have now conceded more goals (38), than any other team, while also having the worst goal difference in the A-League Men.

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Coach Ufuk Talay’s side continues to deal with the mounting team members subject to injury and COVID-19, depleting his men of confidence and form over the past few games.

Talay revealed on Monday that four players had come down with COVID-19, with numerous more subject to injury.

Now into the backend of the season, Talay knows how much these factors are affecting Wellington’s finals desperation.

“We can see that we’re desperately in need of certain players coming back into the team,” said Talay.

“The lack of having that depth is actually starting to hurt us.”

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Jaushua Sotirio and Reno Piscopo were both back after missing their previous match against Melbourne City, though Alex Rufer, Clayton Lewis, Gary Hooper and Joshua Laws remained unavailable.

Talay was forced into a last-minute change Tuesday morning with defender James McGarry out with COVID-19. A reshuffle saw Louis Fenton start at left-back and was at fault for two Mariners penalties.

“It’s unfortunate for Louis because he normally plays on the opposite side and he adapted well but it’s unfortunate for Louis for those penalties,” said Talay.

“If Jimmy (James McGarry) was okay he would have started in that position but we had to put Louis in that position and it was an opportunity for him to step up.”

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Ufuk was left with no other option than to fly over two academy players in Riley Bidois and Luis Toomey to make up the thin numbers.

It’s now to the point where players are being reinfected for the second time, which is certainly worrying Talay with seven games in hand.

“We’re starting to worry, we’re thinking some players might be a little delayed in actually testing positive. We follow protocol where the boys RAT test every morning,” said Talay.

“We can’t afford any more otherwise we’ll be definitely struggling to get numbers even on the bench.”

Despite their poor form as of late, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. In just under two weeks, the Nix will be back on home soil for the first time in over 300 days.

Phoenix’s match at Sky Stadium will again be against Central Coast. Their last game at Sky Stadium brought 24,105 supporters to cheer on Wellington in a 3-0 victory over Western United.

Following that they will play in Auckland against Western Sydney Wanderers a week later.

Seeing the impact the Mariners faithful had on their team’s confidence and success, no wonder Talay’s men are eager to get back in front of their fans.

The APL has also assured a home play-off if they remain inside the top six.

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Currently only a point inside the six, the Nix mustn’t rely on their looming homecoming to solidify their finals position.

Playing seven games in April – including five in 15 days – their resilience to bounce back from their recent adversity will be tested to determine their worthiness of playing finals football.

Feature Image Credit: Speed Media

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Mitchell Roese
Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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