The time for atonement is at hand for the wounded Wellington Phoenix.
There have been video sessions, "soul searching" and plenty of sweat expended in training this week, but none of it has changed the fact the Phoenix were flogged 7-1 by Sydney FC last Saturday.
The only thing that can lessen the pain of the club's heaviest-ever defeat is a win over Newcastle Jets, at Westpac Stadium tomorrow, and then another one against Perth Glory at Auckland's Eden Park next Saturday.
But first things first.
"I'm pretty confident that this Sunday you'll see a pretty revved-up side and I guess we want to apologise to the fans and everyone that supports the club. We let them down last week, it was embarrassing," Phoenix captain Andrew Durante said yesterday.
"It was embarrassing for us and I guess the only way to repay them [the fans] is to put on a good performance on Sunday."
The Sydney FC loss was galling at both ends of the pitch, with goal-scoring chances spurned and soft goals conceded. If ever a team looked in utter disarray, it was the Phoenix that night.
Everyone wants to know why, with the popular theory being it was the meddling of part-owner Gareth Morgan that undermined the team's confidence to the extent that they produced that inglorious display against Sydney.
"Look, the change of the way we're going to play has probably hindered us a bit. We've had a formation and a style of play that we've used for a long time, and now we're implementing a new system," said Durante. "I've spoken previously about whether it was the right timing and it probably wasn't, mid-season. I think if you can plan a pre-season around this new formation and structure, then we can have a good crack at it during the year.
"But, look, we're not going to make excuses . . . I refuse to let this formation and everything be an excuse for us. It's almost an easy way out."
Durante said there were enough "senior pros" in the side to adjust to whatever system the coaches or owners expected them to play.
But being told halfway through the campaign had the team doubting themselves. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect everyone. In saying that, it's in the club's best interests to begin this style of play that they want."
Durante remains confident it can be delivered, and soon, and bristled at a suggestion this playing group were not equipped to play a more aesthetically pleasing game. He said blokes like Manny Muscat, who is back from suspension tomorrow, and Vince Lia, who is out due to it, might not have the silky skills of Melbourne Victory pair Maro Rojas and Marcos Flores but they could play all the same.
In an effort to bolster the midfield, the Phoenix signed Isaka Cernak from the Victory on Thursday night.
He arrives in Wellington today and could force his way into the squad to meet the Jets, coach Ricki Herbert said.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: A-League week 18
Who: Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets
Where and when: Westpac Stadium and Sky Sport 3, 4.30pm tomorrow
Phoenix (likely): Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante (c), Tony Lochhead, Louis Fenton, Manny Muscat, Dani Sanchez, Tyler Boyd, Jeremy Brockie, Paul Ifill. Reserves: Glen Moss, Benji Totori, Stein Huysegems, Alex Smith
Jets: Mark Birighitti, Scott Neville, Taylor Regan, Connor Chapman, Sam Gallaway, Jobe Wheelhouse (c), Josh Brillante, Ryan Griffiths, James Brown, Craig Goodwin, Emile Heskey. Reserves (from): James Virgili, Andrew Hoole, Zenon Caravella, Adam Taggart, Ben Kennedy
TAB odds: Phoenix $2.20, Jets $2.90. Draw $3.30
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