Diving into the Phoenix-Adelaide cauldron

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2012

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The Wellington Phoenix are, publicly at least, over Jeronimo-gate.

Ben Sigmund - the man wrongly sent off when Jeronimo Neumann took a dive in October - said this week he simply hoped Neumann had kicked the habit, and joked that Nix captain Andrew Durante was more upset at the time than he was.

But despite that, tensions will be bubbling away beneath the surface ahead of the Phoenix-Adelaide United rematch at Hindmarsh Stadium tonight.

Interestingly, the A-League has put its best referee on the job in Strebre Delovski, a man unlikely to be conned as easily as Jarred Gillett was.

All of this will be of secondary importance to Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, whose tactics were called out by club owner Gareth Morgan this week.

Some of Morgan's comments were naive at best, but most fans share his desire for more attractive football.

The problem for Herbert is that he has made a career out of coaching a certain way.

The Phoenix are battling to stay in the playoff picture, and Herbert needs actual points, rather than style ones, tonight.

While losing leading scorer Jeremy Brockie to a hamstring injury, Herbert welcomes Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez back to his side for the first time this season.

Sanchez - one of the few Phoenix players who is more craft than graft - faces a big step up in standard after two friendly games against national league teams.

"But he's done everything right. He came through 90 minutes the other week, we've had no reaction, he's trained well," Herbert said.

"His testing looks good so somewhere we're going to have to chuck him into that swimming pool and let him have a go. If you put Dani into midfield he's a different player to Vinnie [Lia], he's a different player than 'Smudge' [Alex Smith], he's a different player to Manny [Muscat]. So it gives you that little bit of ingredient that can look different.

"He's technically very good, as you know, he's great on the ball, that little deft final pass, he's very clever. He's coming in the heat of the battle, of a side that's right at the top and playing extremely well. But sometimes I think that's a great place to throw people in, so we'll see."

Smith drops to the bench, with Louis Fenton reinstated to the starting XI.

Herbert publicly shrugged off Morgan's comments, but privately is unlikely to be thrilled about an economist telling him how to coach.

He used teenaged Kiwi attacking talents Fenton and Tyler Boyd as part of his evidence.

"Those players have been great. If I was a fan sitting at Westpac, that would give me some excitement about the future, seeing those young boys come through.

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"I haven't left them out of any games yet, they've been part of the whole 10, if not playing, on the bench and coming on.

"So they've had a really good introduction into the league and they're challenging."

Adelaide, fresh from pounding Melbourne Victory, also regain two Socceroos in playmaker Dario Vidosic and goalkeeper-captain Eugene Galekovic.

They have an imposing record against the Phoenix at Hindmarsh - seven wins, a draw and two losses.

"Obviously against Melbourne the boys were great and we've got to continue that," Galekovic said.

"Three points is vital, it's our home ground and we've got a good record against them, but records don't really mean anything unless we play to our potential."

- Sunday Star Times

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