Herbert looks for atonement against Mariners

REFOCUSING: Ben Sigmund returns from suspension to strengthen the Phoenix.
REFOCUSING: Ben Sigmund returns from suspension to strengthen the Phoenix.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert will give his players a chance to atone for their dismal display in Melbourne as Ben Sigmund returns from suspension to bolster a shaky defence against the red-hot Mariners tomorrow.

But Sigmund, who will replace Michael Boxall in the only change, said the first-choice XI were well aware they would find themselves on the bench if they didn't perform their defensive tasks at Westpac Stadium.

Two late Jeremy Brockie goals flattered the Phoenix in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Victory, who opened up the visitors with ridiculous ease in the first half.

After a promising opening-round win over Sydney FC, the Phoenix have failed to win in their subsequent four starts and face another thorough examination from a superbly drilled Central Coast tomorrow.

The Mariners humiliated Sydney 7-2 last weekend and have won their last five encounters with the Phoenix - including three in Wellington.

It is still early days in a long competition, but with their following two games in Newcastle and Perth, Herbert needs three points to ease the pressure.

"There's a reaction that I want to see and we'll give that group a chance to provide that," said Herbert in defending his selection approach.

"We had a 60-minute period where we just didn't compete [in Melbourne]. That's not this club at all."

Herbert said it was a sombre dressing room at Etihad Stadium but promised fans "the endeavour will certainly be there on Sunday".

Without criticising Boxall, Herbert believed that Sigmund's return would help his side's defensive organisation.

They'll certainly need that, plus Sigmund's passion. Although they don't have any superstar names, Central Coast made mincemeat of Sydney as Daniel McBreen scored a hat-trick and Tom Rogic and Michael McGlinchey pulled the strings.

"They're a good, fluid side, they work hard for each other and that's a good trait to have in this A-League," said Herbert, although he wondered out loud whether the Mariners were that good, or Sydney that bad.

Sigmund, who was harshly suspended for his foul on Jeronimo Neumann, watched the Melbourne game with fans at a Wellington city pub.

He admitted the first half in particular made for "tough" viewing.

"We didn't set up very well, we were a bit lazy on defence and as a whole, the shape was all over the place," Sigmund said.

"We've worked at that, everyone's got a job and a task they've got to do and if they don't do it then you'll be on the bench. That's the standard we've got to set."

Next week will be another juggling act for the Phoenix, who lose Herbert and six players for New Zealand's friendly in China on Thursday. They will fly back ahead of the Jets next Sunday.

"But for me I'm going to give everything against Central Coast because we need a win and that's the most important thing," Sigmund said.

"Once that game is over then we'll focus on China."

Sigmund identified McBreen and fellow All White McGlinchey as the Mariners' main threats.

"But in saying, that the whole team's decent."


What: A-League, week six

Where: Westpac Stadium

When: 4.30pm tomorrow

TV: Live on Sky Sport 2

Referee: Lucien Laverdure

TAB: Phoenix $2.50, Mariners $2.65, Draw $3.30

Phoenix: Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Manny Muscat, Alex Smith, Louis Fenton, Paul Ifill, Jeremy Brockie, Stein Huysegems. Bench: Glen Moss, Vince Lia, Benjamin Totori, Tyler Boyd

Mariners (likely): Mathew Ryan, Pedj Bojic, Trent Sainsbury, Patrick Zwaanswijk, Josh Rose, Nick Montgomery, John Hutchinson, Michael McGlinchey, Tom Rogic, Mile Sterjovski, Daniel McBreen. Bench (from): Justin Pasfield, Zachary Anderson, Troy Hearfield, Bernie Ibini, Adriano Pellegrino, Oliver Bozanic, Brent Griffiths, Brad McDonald, Anthony Caceres, Mitchell Duke, Adam Kwasnik

The Dominion Post