Phoenix remain upbeat about their chances

BENCHED: Stein Huysegems has been replaced in the starting lineup by Tyler Boyd.
BENCHED: Stein Huysegems has been replaced in the starting lineup by Tyler Boyd.

Wellington Phoenix assistant coach Chris Greenacre denies the club is feeling the pressure as they attempt to end a three-game losing streak in Newcastle today.

The Phoenix start heavy underdogs against the high-flying Jets, who in former England star Emile Heskey possess the A-League's most in-form striker.

The All Whites' midweek friendly in China has also caused disruption, with head coach Ricki Herbert and six players backing up for their third game in a week.

But Greenacre, who took the reins in Herbert's absence, felt the Phoenix actually played well in last Sunday's 1-0 loss to Central Coast.

"It's just keep[ing] persevering with the formation and the way we play," he said. "We've done OK when we've gone to Newcastle in recent times [two wins from the last three games at Hunter Stadium] and we'll be looking to do that again. But I thought against Central Coast it was a good team performance, and in all fairness, the players did everything that we asked of them. I think we were probably just missing a little bit of a magic spark on the day but I think the game could have gone either way."

Another loss today would equal the club's worst losing streak of four, set in October, 2007.

But Greenacre said the mood in the camp was: "not pressure, it's just disappointment.

"A couple of the performances - Adelaide I think things did go against us but we conceded a goal that we shouldn't have conceded really, from a poor clearance. Hands up - we were absolutely terrible against Victory, we didn't apply ourselves for an hour and if you do that in any game in the A-League or any game in the world, you'll get punished. Central Coast keep kind of just plodding on and picking results up. We're not in that frame at the minute, performance-wise, but we should be going to Newcastle with a lot of confidence, I think."

The Phoenix worked hard during the week on getting better numbers into the box, timing runs and finishing off second-phase opportunities. At the other end, captain Andrew Durante and fellow centre back Ben Sigmund will be charged with stopping Heskey from adding to his five-goal tally.

Durante said the dressing room after the Mariners game was "pretty quiet."

"I probably haven't seen it that quiet for a very long time," Durante said. "So, look, everyone's hurting . . . but the only way we're going to get out of it is working hard on the pitch."

The Phoenix are drawing on last season's turnaround as inspiration. The club had an identical record after the first six rounds, with just one win and two draws, before going on to finish fourth in the regular season.

"I think that's what's going to get us out of this, the fact that we've been here before. I mean it's not the first time in the club's history that we've lost three in a row or gone through a rough patch," Durante said.

"We've come out of it and I know we can come out of this one." Durante admitted it was unknown whether the Phoenix could cope for 90 minutes today but vowed to play positive football rather than settle for a draw.

"It's obviously not the greatest thing to have happened to us - an international trip at this time. But we definitely can't just sit back and let Newcastle come at us because we're desperate for a win.

"If anything we've got to come out and really go for it. We've got nothing to lose really, no-one's expecting us to win on the road so if we pick up some points on the road it would be great for the confidence."

Sunday Star Times