Durante: We're winning battle if not the games

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 12/01/2013
Andrew Durante
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ
ANDREW DURANTE: "At the moment we seem to be playing some good football but not winning games."

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In hindsight, the off-season would have been a good time to overhaul the Wellington Phoenix's style of play.

But the owners, and subsequently the coaches, have spoken and now the players say they are happy to embrace the possession-based tactics.

Problem is that more than half the A-League season has passed by, and the Phoenix sit second-last as they grapple with the twin demands of pleasing the eye and picking up points.

"It is quite a difficult thing," said Phoenix captain Andrew Durante ahead of tomorrow's home game against Western Sydney Wanderers.

"Obviously we've had a brand of football that we've played for four years and we've had the same players playing that way for that long. To change mid-season has been difficult but I think it's a positive thing and a fantastic challenge for all the players to say let's be better, let's play a better brand of football.

"A lot of people have taken it negatively and thought it wasn't the right time. It probably could have been done in pre-season but it hasn't; it's being done middle of the season and we've just got to rise to that."

Durante said the first half of last Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Melbourne Victory was some of the best football the Phoenix had played during his time at the club.

"So we're getting there.

"It's going to be a slow process but I think you'll see from the results, or the style of play, that we're definitely improving."

Durante said the coaching staff had driven the changes and after some intensive training sessions, the players were slowly getting better at keeping the ball.

The league's official statistics back that up, with the Phoenix hauling themselves off the bottom of the passing rankings.

There is always heated debate among football fans as to whether winning or style is more important.

Durante said the two could go hand in hand.

"Hopefully in a couple of weeks we're playing teams off the park and also winning games.

"At the moment we seem to be playing some good football but not winning games.

"The owners have stated that it's not always about winning, it's about the brand of football and we're trying to do that, we're trying to implement the brand of football that Ricki [Herbert] and the coaching staff want."

The players had mentally bought into the changes and Durante was confident the team could turn around a form slump in time to qualify for the top-six finals.

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After the loss in Melbourne, Herbert talked about the possibility of a "blip season" but Durante was having none of it.

"Definitely not. I think the top-two is probably out of reach but we had high expectations coming into this season. We've fallen off a little bit but we're absolutely confident we can make the playoffs."

Both teams regain players from suspension tomorrow.

For the Phoenix, young winger Tyler Boyd returns and is set to take the place of Benjamin Totori, who is unlucky after a lively game against the Victory.

Newcomers Western Sydney are in fourth place and regain captain Michael Beauchamp and winger Youssouf Hersi.

- The Dominion Post

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Related story: Wellington Phoenix off-season scorecard

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