Mark Paston's dead leg proves to be fractured leg

BY FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2009

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Wellington Phoenix have begun the search for a goalkeeper with All Whites World Cup hero Mark Paston revealing he could face "months" on the sidelines.

In a huge blow to the Phoenix's A-League finals aspirations, scans yesterday revealed what was originally believed to be a dead leg is a fractured tibia.

Paston was to visit a specialist yesterday afternoon and the full extent of his injury, and whether or not he needs an operation, should be known in the coming days.

"It will be a few weeks anyway – months is looking pretty much likely," a visibly downcast Paston, sporting crutches, said after Phoenix training at Newtown Park.

Paston suffered the injury in a training clash with skipper Andrew Durante before the Brisbane match a fortnight ago. He missed that match but returned against Melbourne last Friday night, playing through what was thought to be a dead leg.

But as it turns out, he trained the entire week and played 90 minutes with a fractured tibia.

"I obviously came back and played the Melbourne game and thought it would just get better, but it didn't," said Paston, who just four weeks ago made the crucial penalty save against Bahrain to send the All Whites to next year's World Cup.

"I went for a jog on Monday and it was agony. The scan has obviously shown there was a bit more to it than just a dead leg."

The official line is four to six weeks on the sidelines but Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert admits it could be 10 weeks by the time Paston is ready to return.

Paston has been in top form and though understudy Reece Crowther is highly thought of at the club, the 21-year-old is not in Paston's class.

Assistant coach Jonathan Gould, a former international, will be reserve goalkeeper for tomorrow's match against Sydney in Palmerston North but Herbert is on the lookout for a more permanent replacement.

"With the length of Mark's injury we'll probably go into the market. We'll have to have a look. But there's nobody in New Zealand, is there?"

Paston's injury capped a bad fortnight for the Phoenix, with first team defenders Manny Muscat and Ben Sigmund picking up suspensions.

Striker Chris Greenacre (knee) is a doubtful starter, while Jon McKain, Tony Lochhead and Tim Brown sat out various parts of training yesterday nursing niggles, but all are expected to be fine.

Durante was also absent, "pretty crook" after a bout of flu.

"Hopefully, I'm through the worst of it," Durante said on his way to the doctor.

"I don't think I'll have much of a choice, I've got to play. It looks like it's a hospital ward at the moment. It's going to test us this week, the depth of the squad, but hopefully it's just Pasty who is a major one."

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The Phoenix travel to Palmerston North today and have a training run this afternoon. Herbert will take two extra players.

The main talking point is around the defence, with McKain slotting into Sigmund's centre back position. Ordinarily there would be no issue but McKain is coming off a three-month injury layoff and may struggle to complete 90 minutes.

That leaves midfielder Brown a chance to feature at centre back, Herbert said.

"We'd have to make a readjustment out of midfield. We're going to have to look after Jon for a couple of weeks with Siggy and Manny both out and it's a matter of coping now.

"People can fill positions and we might have to be a little bit makeshift at times."

- The Dominion Post

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