Wellington Phoenix eye green grass of home
It is the longest road trip in world football, yet Jeremy Brockie and the Phoenix boarded the flight back from Perth with a spring in their step yesterday.
Thanks to a three-game losing streak the Phoenix remain outside the A-League's top six but a glance at the draw suggests that won't be the case for much longer.
A win in Newcastle and Saturday night's 1-1 draw in Perth has steadied the ship and the Phoenix now have four of their next five games at Westpac Stadium.
The first two appeal as great opportunities to collect three points: Sunday's date with league newbies Western Sydney and then cellar dwellers Sydney FC.
Brockie said the team was satisfied with four points from two games on the road and realised their opportunity to climb the ladder before Christmas.
"We've got a good run of home games coming up," Brockie said before boarding the plane yesterday.
"We've played the majority of our games away so far and it'd be good to get a good run going and push ourselves up the ladder heading into Christmas.
"It's definitely an important period for us, we've got to be hard to beat at home and I'm sure we'll look to build on the two results we've got over here."
Brockie's mother lives in Perth and was in the nib Stadium stands on Saturday as her son scored a peach of a goal to cancel out Shane Smeltz's classy strike.
Brockie - who now has five goals from his last four games - took a clever touch over the top of Steve Pantelidis, advanced into the box before assessing his options and deliberately nutmegging Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
"I had the same situation against Newcastle and I tried to go over the top of [Mark] Birighitti," Brockie said. "I had quite a lot of time to assess when I was going towards goal last night. I had a little look and Louis [Fenton] was sort of taken on the inside and Vukovic had done quite well to cut down the angle. So that was really the only place I could have put it."
Under Tony Popovic, Western Sydney have been competitive in their debut season and sit one point ahead of the Phoenix on the ladder.
The Wanderers were unable to take advantage of a 10-man Melbourne Victory, however, losing 2-0 on Saturday. But overall Western Sydney have been stingy defensively, conceding just seven goals from eight games.
"So I guess this week we'll concentrate on trying to build on our two performances and look for a way to try and break them down," Brockie said.
"They've got a couple of good, big, strong centre backs [Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Michael Beauchamp] so maybe the best way is to sort of avoid going route one down the middle. And we can maybe play a little bit and try and get some joy down the flanks and get balls into the box that way."
Coach Ricki Herbert will also have some interesting decisions to make, with Stein Huysegems, who came off the bench in Perth, returning to full fitness, and Benjamin Totori also on the comeback from injury.
Herbert has opted for a 4-3-3 on the road but may be tempted to revert to 4-4-2 on home soil, with Brockie and Huysegems complemented by wingers Fenton and Paul Ifill.
Elsewhere, leaders Adelaide heaped more misery on Sydney in a 2-1 win and Melbourne Heart and Newcastle played out an action-packed 3-3 draw.
PERTH GLORY 1 PHOENIX 1
The Dominion Post