Phoenix put 'total football' on backburner

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013
Andrew Durante
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
ANDREW DURANTE: We've just come to the conclusion that it doesn't always have to be pretty. If it needs to go long when we're under pressure - it goes."

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Direct football will be the Wellington Phoenix way for the rest of the season, says club captain Andrew Durante.

With the Phoenix making a noticeable switch back to a more familiar playing style last weekend in an improved performance against the Newcastle Jets, Durante says the club's need for playoff football this season is greater than that of "pretty football".

At a public signing session in Auckland yesterday ahead of Saturday's bottom-of-the-table match with Perth Glory, Durante said the Phoenix's playing group had gotten together prior to the 1-1 draw with the Jets and decided: 'we need to start winning games'.

Durante said the more attractive style of football recently touted remains part of training - and he also believes is the direction in which the club needs to go. But for now, that shift appears to have been iced.

"The players just got together and said we had to start winning games," Durante said.

"If we want to make these playoffs, which is paramount for the playing group, then sometimes there has to be compromise.

"There's always next pre-season if we want to really master that playing game, but we'd be really disappointed if we didn't make the playoffs this year.

"At training we're still working on it, we're still doing it. But I think we were taking a lot of risks in previous games, we were all out of shape.

"Ricki's still encouraging us to do it at training too. We've just come to the conclusion that it doesn't always have to be pretty. If it needs to go long when we're under pressure - it goes.

"In previous weeks we've tried to play our way out of pressure and we've been caught.

"We still want to develop that system, and I think it's important the club goes that way, but I think for the remainder of the season the playoffs are more important and the club can build on it for next season."

Durante also urged Auckland's football community to repeat last year's Eden Park attendance, where 20,000 fans turned out to watch them face Brisbane Roar.

A rush of gameday ticket sales, minutes before kick-off, caused considerable delays at the turnstiles last time out at Eden Park. Yesterday afternoon though, pre-sales were ahead of the same time last year.

"The crowds have been a big talking factor back in Wellington. Hopefully we can get the same again in Auckland as last time," Durante said.

"Wellington, for whatever reason, has dropped off in crowds. Hopefully bringing the game away, especially Auckland who got us a good crowd last time, can do that again.

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"The players thrive on the home support, the more people the better.

"The challenge was thrown to Auckland last time and they responded brilliantly.

"Hopefully they get out in even more numbers. The club's going through a tough time at the moment. More support for us would be greatly appreciated.

"There's only nine games to go and Perth are a pointing front of us. It's a great chance to start climbing the ladder. It's almost getting to the stage where we really must win our home games, minimum."

Durante said the performance against the Jets has restored some confidence to the Phoenix squad.

"We were kind of disappointed in the changing rooms having been a goal up, but that point has given us a lot of confidence. If we can kick on from that we can start climbing this ladder," he said.

"We nicked a point, or lost a couple, last week but we're slowly getting there. It was a better performance and that's what it's about. A bit of grit and determination." 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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