Phoenix rookie Ian Hogg is hopeful he has done enough to retain his place in the starting lineup for Thursday's tough trip to A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners.
Hogg produced a sound performance in Saturday night's 1-0 win over Perth Glory at Eden Park, receiving the nod from Ricki Herbert for his first professional club game with veteran Tony Lochhead suspended.
Fitness could be an issue for Hogg, who admitted he felt the proverbial elephant climb on his back about the 70th minute at the weekend, but it would be a big call for Herbert to drop him for the Mariners match - particularly after he himself admitted the situation was one of "taking opportunities".
Hogg, who has played much of his semi-professional career at Auckland City, said he was pleased with his performance and enjoyed the experience.
He will now await Herbert's decision for the next game.
"I was happy with the way I went.
"It's nice to get a win and, obviously with an Auckland crowd, I was keen to impress them," Hogg said.
"I was about the last out there, signing stuff and saw some family and friends, it's always nice to play inside your home.
"I was a little bit nervous making my debut but I thought I had a solid game.
"I would like to have done a bit more going forward but defensively I was very solid and my fitness will get better, that was my first 90 minutes in five months.
"I was sucking in the big ones at the end but got through it all right.
"I was cramping up a bit around the 70-minute mark."
Hogg, who has earned four All Whites caps, said his first impression of the A-League was of a much faster pace than that of New Zealand's domestic competition and similar to that of the international game.
"It's a lot faster than the domestic league - the players are a lot quicker and a lot stronger," he said.
"It was good having someone with experience [captain Andrew Durante] beside me towards the end there.
"Positioning-wise he was telling me where to go and I think we formed a pretty good combination."
Hogg said that similarly to Lochhead, they were both players who liked to attack, though he suggested he probably offered a pace advantage over the more experienced player.
"I'm probably quicker than him, hopefully," he said.
In the end, Jeremy Brockie's 41st-minute effort, a diving header from close range, was the deciding factor at Eden Park. It ended a run of five games without a win.
The Phoenix marginally deserved the win but didn't make life easy for themselves. They were reluctant to push for more goals and in doing so, invited Perth to attack.
A crowd of 11,566 attended the match, well down on the more than 20,000 who greeted the Phoenix in Auckland last year.
The attendance is the second highest "home" crowd of the Phoenix's season so far, behind the opening day which attracted 12,057 in Wellington, and a considerable jump on recent weeks.
Saturday also brought a fifth yellow card of the season for defender Ben Sigmund, who will be suspended for the Phoenix's next game.
- The Dominion Post
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