Boyd, Fenton handed A-League start roles
Precocious attacking teenagers Tyler Boyd and Louie Fenton will unite from the opening whistle when the Wellington Phoenix tackle A-League leaders the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.
Boyd, 17, will make his first start of the season for the seventh-placed home team alongside 19-year-old Fenton in a new-look attacking formation, with Belgian striker Stein Huysegems dropped and Paul Ifill absent after undergoing surgery on his ankle.
Jeremy Brockie returns from a hamstring strain that ruled him out of last Sunday's 3-1 loss in Adelaide and he will fill Huysegems' front role while Dani Sanchez will remain as an attacking midfielder.
Sanchez limped out of training on Friday with a sore toe but coach Ricki Herbert is confident the Spaniard will be fit to start, along with captain Andrew Durante, who missed the second half in Adelaide with a calf strain.
All eyes will be on the combination of Fenton and Boyd, who shone in the second spell in Adelaide, further justifying their promotion this season from the club's newly-formed academy.
Boyd has come off the bench in all 11 games while Fenton has been in and out of the starting side.
It is a bold move from Herbert, who has looked past the seasoned Huysegems and Solomon Islands attacking weapon Benjamin Totori to try to halt a two-match losing run.
"I think it's pretty clear for everybody to see where we are heading and that's going to take a bit of time and some parts we'll get right - some parts we won't at the moment," said Herbert, a long-time advocate of a player academy at the Phoenix.
"The best young kids in the A-League are coming through academies.
"We've been going six months and we've produced two. I think they're as good as any of the young boys in the league so, hopefully in time, we can keep improving that area."
The Mariners are unbeaten in eight games, including a 1-0 defeat of the Phoenix in Wellington last month.
They have scored a league-leading 21 goals but Herbert is just as wary that they had conceded only eight, admitting he is throwing out an enormous challenge to Fenton and Boyd.
"We'll let those young ones cut loose tomorrow night and see if they can trouble a pretty sturdy defence."