Phoenix target strong start against Glory
Four games without a win, Wellington Phoenix are looking for a strong start and more co-ordination on defence in Saturday's fifth-round A-League match against Perth Glory in Christchurch.
Assistant coach Chris Greenacre says last week's 3-2 away loss to Melbourne Victory highlighted a couple of ongoing weaknesses for the Phoenix: a tendency to concede early goals, and a lack of communication at the back.
"The slow start is something we need to address, and it's important we turn that round sooner rather than later," he said.
Lapses at the back came as the Phoenix struggled for cohesion in playing a high defensive line, and they have been working hard in training this week to boost communication.
Captain and central defender Andrew Durante in particular wants to erase the memory of his weak backheader to keeper Glen Moss that was intercepted by James Troisi for Melbourne's second goal.
"There were some individual mistakes, and one of mine definitely," Durante said.
"We're playing a really high line, and we got caught out far too many times. But we've worked on it, and we'll be a much better outfit against Perth."
The Glory lie fourth on the table after two 1-0 home wins, and haven't conceded a goal since their 3-1 opening loss to Adelaide.
Their away record against the Phoenix hasn't been impressive, however, with just one win from their past 10 trips across the Tasman.
But Greenacre says history counts for little against the fourth-placed Glory.
"They're a young side, quite fearless I think, and they've had a couple of good home wins - it'll be a difficult game."
He said Perth's New Zealand striker Shane Smeltz, continuing his return from hip surgery, will test the Phoenix defence.
"Shane always causes problems whoever he plays against. His goalscoring record speaks for itself, he's a player you can't leave alone because he'll punish you."
Adding to the challenge is a tight time-frame around the game.
Smeltz and six Phoenix players - Glen Moss, Jacob Spoonley, Leo Bertos, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund and Jeremy Brockie - will be rushed straight from the game to the airport to join the All Whites in Los Angeles ahead of next week's World Cup soccer qualifier in Mexico.
Greenacre has no doubt where his players' priorities lie.
"They're professional enough and focused enough to know they've got a game to play first - it's a tall order for any team, but that's the nature of the beast and we'll deal with it."