Michael Boxall is the new Phoenix right back after Louis Fenton was ruled out for the season, while Carlos Hernandez will make a surprise return in the next game against the Mariners on January 12.
It was very much mixed news on the injury front yesterday, as it was decided Fenton would require surgery on his troublesome shoulder.
The recovery is 3-4 months and the timing is cruel, just as he was coming to grips with the demands of his new position.
"Obviously he's upset but that's the nature of elite sport," Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said.
"I told him he had established himself as a very good attacking fullback and I thought his last game was one of his best. He's certainly pencilled in for that role and he's re-signed for next year. There's no further injury to the joint, he just needs the operation. His welfare is the most important thing, it's not about points."
Merrick said there were no regrets about playing Fenton in Wednesday's win over Western Sydney, despite him aggravating the injury in the previous game.
"No, not at all. If the medical staff say it's OK, then it's OK."
Fenton is expected to make a full recovery.
"People keep telling me that it is part of football, but it isn't a part I wanted to experience ... this was hard to take," Fenton said.
Boxall, who is primarily a centre back, replaced Fenton against the Wanderers and looked the part.
Merrick said Boxall was the fastest in the squad over 20m and also had the size, skills and right foot to play the position.
Hernandez missed the Wanderers game with a fractured wrist and was set to undergo surgery and a 5-6 week recovery.
But a subsequent CT scan revealed it was the recurrence of a previous injury and, on the recommendation of a hand surgeon, was cleared to play wearing a soft brace.
"I was very happy," said the Costa Rican playmaker, who is also hoping to play at this year's World Cup.
The Mariners received an injury blow of their own yesterday, with star midfielder Marcos Flores ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
Phoenix players and staff have been given the weekend off before returning to work on Monday but Merrick continues to scour the football world for recruits.
He is keen to make some new signings in the January transfer window but reiterated they would not be household names.
"We're not about spending big money on short-term players. If you do your homework there are always players around. Albert Riera, how good is he?"
While pleased with the club's three-match winning streak, Merrick is frustrated by Football Federation Australia rules limiting the Phoenix's squad to 23 players.
Australian A-League clubs are allowed 26 and Merrick said he was yet to get a satisfactory answer as to why.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that for seven years we have been unable to develop young talent in New Zealand because they will not allow us the three additional players. The FFA give us this jumbled message to do with youth development and opportunities for youth players. I'm so frustrated, I can't believe there's two sets of rules in play."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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