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Mar 25, 2012

Phoenix finishing needs to lift: Herbert

Wellington Phoenix's finishing needs to sharpen up ahead of Friday's knockout A-League semi-final at home against Sydney FC, coach Ricki Herbert says.

Wellington ended the regular season in fourth place, beaten 2-1 at Westpac Stadium on Sunday by premiership winners Central Coast Mariners.

The Mariners controlled much of the match, with goals either side of halftime to teenager Bernie Ibini and English striker John Sutton giving them a comfortable lead until a superb 25m Leo Bertos free kick hauled one back for the home team in the 80th minute.

Herbert was happy enough with his team's intensity, but wants to see a more clinical focus on finishing on Friday, after chances went begging against the Mariners.

"We chased the game at the start, and I'm probably more disappointed in the chances we created that we didn't finish," he said.

"That's going to be crucial come Friday."

Needing all three points to avoid missing the finals for the second straight season, Sydney secured their spot with a 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Now the Phoenix know their opposition, Herbert says they can focus on Friday with some certainty.

Wellington have had a stellar season against Sydney, winning three from three, including a confidence-boosting 1-0 away win in their last outing at the end of February.

"We've worked really hard in what has been a tough year, and we're going to give it 300 per cent.

"We want to go all the way through to the final if we can. It's going to be all on the night - there's nothing past it if we do fall."

Captain Andrew Durante says there were enough positives to come from Sunday's loss to keep the Phoenix confident ahead of their sudden-death play-off.

"We've got our heads up and we're looking forward to Friday. Finals football is a completely different kettle of fish - you go in there, and you throw the form guide out the window.

"We'll be up for it."

NZN cwa/rf/

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