Perth a trip into the unknown

DANNY HAY
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2011

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The Phoenix will be more than happy to slip under the radar today as all eyes focus on Eden Park and the All Blacks.

The long trip to Perth represents the Phoenix's first genuine challenge of the season after a decent start against, truth be told, two of the A-League's "also-rans".

Unlike coachless Newcastle and a Gold Coast team robbed of any star power, the Glory have recruited well to create a nicely balanced side full of attacking threats and miserly defenders.

With an available squad not much bigger than the digits on which you can count them, discipline is going to be a crucial factor for the Phoenix.

While Nick Ward's ridiculous red card last week was rightly overturned, they will have to do without key midfielder Tim Brown after he picked up a second yellow card for slowing the game down.

The incident could be judged another harsh call but it seemed a totally unnecessary and out-of-character act from a player so vital to the Phoenix's hopes. Combined with a multitude of injuries, Brown's suspension will give an opportunity for game time to some players with little A-League experience.

Quite simply, with limited numbers, Ricki Herbert can ill-afford to be without a full complement leading into any fixture, let alone the notoriously tough trip to Perth. The match looms as a test of his tactical ability and how well his players can follow a game plan.

With All Whites sharp shooter Shane Smeltz the marquee man for the Glory, there will be little room for error.

Only two games into the season he's already punished the opposition twice. At this level, he has consistently shown how deadly he can be given half a chance.

The best way to stop Smeltz is to stop his service. Nullify the delivery from wide areas and close down the supply from midfield and the Phoenix will give themselves their best chance of making the long flight home with smiles on their faces.

Danny Hay is a former All White

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