There will be two fresh faces in Wellington later this week as the severely-depleted Phoenix look to keep their ailing A-League football season hopes alive.
As cover for No1 Glen Moss, the Phoenix are set to bring in Victorian premier league goalkeeper Stuart Webster on a one-week contract to sit on the bench against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night, with both Mark Paston and Jacob Spoonley on international duty with the All Whites.
The Richmond stopper will be joined by former Adelaide United defender Kristian Rees.
They will help plug the gaping hole left by All Whites Tim Brown, Shane Smeltz, Tony Lochhead and Jeremy Christie, who are on international duty with New Zealand. They will play Vanuatu in an Oceania group World Cup qualifier in Port Vila earlier on Saturday.
Furthermore, the pair's arrival will be a much-needed boost given the uncertainty surrounding Ahmad Elrich's pending suspension after he was sent off during Sunday's 3-0 loss in Queensland, and injury concerns to midfielders Richard Johnson (hamstring) and club captain Ross Aloisi (back).
"Fingers crossed they will both be available for Saturday but I wouldn't say I'm confident, more hopeful that they will be okay," Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said.
He will also be missing this weekend, for the second and final time this season, through his duties as national coach.
Given the Phoenix's depth is in midfield, Herbert said he and assistant coach Wayne O'Sullivan would consider opting for three defenders this weekend in a 3-5-2 formation.
The contrasting styles of Vaughan Coveny and Felipe were likely to start up front as the Phoenix chase a home win, against the odds, over a rejuvenated Sydney.
"It's a minimum, at home, to play with two strikers and it's in everyone's interests to maximise our chances of getting a win in front of our home fans," Herbert said. "We need to take a positive approach as opposed to sitting back and trying to nick a point."
Meanwhile, Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said he would consider appealing to the FFA judiciary, depending on what punishment is dished out to Elrich this week after the midfielder was sent off in the 34th minute of Sunday's loss for apparently elbowing Roar fullback Hyuk-Su Seo.
Herbert watched several replays of the incident yesterday.
"From what you can see on the tape, it's very inconclusive. We'll wait and see but you never know what you're going to get sometimes."
The Phoenix (11 points) are seventh, two points above bottom-placed Perth and six off top four pace. They have four of their next five matches at home.
- The Dominion Post
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