Phoenix turn it around with attitude and tactics

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012
Vince Lia
FAIRFAX NZ
VINCE LIA: "If we have a bad attitude and don't do the things that we need to, it's not going to make a difference."

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Midfielder Vince Lia says a change in both formation and attitude were equally responsible for the Wellington Phoenix's form reversal on Sunday.

The Phoenix switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation against the Newcastle Jets and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 away win.

Now seventh after seven rounds of the 10-team league, the Phoenix flew to Perth on Monday to prepare for Saturday's finals rematch against the Glory.

Coach Ricki Herbert is unlikely to change formation in what shapes as a midfield dogfight, although the return from injury of Stein Huysegems could spell bad news for promising 19-year-old winger Louis Fenton.

"I hope he keeps it the same and I play but Stein will be back in contention," said Lia, who replaced Huysegems (ankle) in the starting XI on Sunday.

"Having three in the midfield probably makes it a little bit harder for teams to break us down and, after what's happened in the last month or so, we needed to be a bit more solid and harder to beat. But in saying that, if we have a bad attitude and don't do the things that we need to, it's not going to make a difference. So I think a combination of both of those things."

Perth was sweltering in 35-degree heat yesterday as the Phoenix rested ahead of a late afternoon training run.

Lia, a Phoenix foundation player, said it was satisfying to be back in the forefront of Herbert's thoughts after an injury disrupted pre-season.

The 27-year-old is not the A-League's most exciting midfielder but his workrate, in conjunction with Manny Muscat, allows Alex Smith to push forward.

"That's another bonus of playing that three in the midfield, you can sort of get a few more numbers forward and still have cover at the back," Lia said.

"It seemed to work well a few years ago when we did it, with Browny [Tim Brown] and myself and Manny in there."

Perth knocked the Phoenix out of last season's finals series at nib Stadium en route to the grand final and both teams are renowned for their physicality but Lia thinks those reputations are "a little bit" unfair.

"While there's elements of that style of play to both teams, on our day we can play some good stuff and they can as well," he said.

Adjusting to the Perth time zone had been a challenge this week with players waking up as early as 5am local time.

The game kicks off at 11.45pm NZ time.

"Hopefully, we've adjusted by Saturday. Hopefully, the win last week can kick-start our season and we can continue on.

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"It's only one win, if we get beat by Perth we could be down the bottom again."

Lia said the players would vote yes on a prospective bid to lure David Beckham to the Phoenix but was somewhat sceptical about the A-League's chances.

"I think it'd take a very good offer to get him to Australia but we've seen Del Piero and the like come here. So I think if there's any truth to it, it's worth pursuing. It just shows how far the league's come."

Meanwhile, controversial referee Jarred Gillett - who sent off Ben Sigmund against Adelaide United - has been reinstated to the panel this weekend.

Gillett will control Saturday's Melbourne Heart-Newcastle game.

- Wellington

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