Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay still searching for winning formula

Phoenix striker Gary Hooper fights for possession with Kristian Popovic during last weekend's loss against the Glory.
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Phoenix striker Gary Hooper fights for possession with Kristian Popovic during last weekend's loss against the Glory.

  Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has hinted at making changes for Sunday's clash with Melbourne City, but feels his new-look team is not far away from producing a performance that will result in points.

The Phoenix will equal their worst start to an A-League season if they suffer a defeat against the injury-hit City at AAMI Park, having lost their first three games against Western United, Sydney FC and Perth Glory by one-goal margins.

"I think we're not too far away but maybe there will be a couple of changes this weekend," Talay said.

"The results haven't gone our way but the football has been good. We're just a win away and I think we'll have a snow ball effect once we get those three points.

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"The belief is there with the players. The week has been good again, it's been very positive and the players know we are just a whisker away from getting a result."

One player knocking on the door for a start is left winger Reno Piscopo. Kept out of the starting 11 by impressive Kiwi youngster Callum McCowatt, Piscopo had a positive impact when he came off the bench against the Glory.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay.
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Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay.

"Everyone is putting their hand up and they're all working hard but I believe in consistency, and even though we haven't got the results we've been playing very good football, it's just about getting the ball in the back of the net and starting off [well]," he said.

"I think it's very important we get a clean sheet and then obviously goals change game and the opportunities that we create, if we put one in the back of the net, it will change the game completely."

Final execution remains the biggest work-on for the Phoenix, having scored just one goal from open play across the first three games. Talay said he has introduced more finishing drills during training to help his team build their confidence in front of goal.

Gary Hooper should help the Phoenix in the goal-scoring department but Talay has indicated on numerous occasions that he does not want to rush his new striker as he continues to work his way up to match fitness.

Hooper saw 15 minutes against the Glory and won the penalty which Ulises Davila converted in stoppage time.

"Gary has been really good. Yesterday we did some finishing drills and he's very good in that sort of sense. We plan to give him some minutes so hopefully he can make an impact.

"Elite sport is a confidence thing as well and when you know you're scoring goals you ride a wave and it continues on and winning becomes a habit as well, so we work on that in training, we work on finishing drills and we put them in areas they're going to be in, with the way we play and the way we set up, to execute it."

City will be without gun striker Jamie Maclaren.
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City will be without gun striker Jamie Maclaren.

In a major boost for the Phoenix, City will be without in-form striker Jamie Maclaren and defender Richard Windbichler due to hamstring injuries, while defender Harrison Delbridge is serving a one-game suspension following his red card against Western last week.

The only Phoenix player unavailable for Sunday's clash is suspended left-back Liberato Cacace.

Meanwhile, Talay said the Phoenix will keep close tabs on All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis, who is returning to New Zealand after terminating his contract with League Two side Scunthorpe United. 

Lewis cannot sign with a professional club until the transfer window opens in January.

"We'll keep tabs on all the Kiwi boys for January and Clayton is one of those players as well. I think he's a good player but we'll see where he ends up."

A-League round 4, Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City

AAMI Park, Melbourne: Sunday 6pm

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