The Mariners have an imposing home record. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au
What a difference a couple of weeks can make. After losing four straight, including a 7-1 thumping at the hands of Sydney FC, Wellington has managed to crawl off the bottom of the A-League table. A 1-0 win on the weekend in Auckland over Perth Glory came on the back of a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, and remarkably Phoenix is now just one point outside the top six.
Ricki Herbert’s side faces a tough task to extend its short unbeaten run against league leader Central Coast when the teams clash in a rare Thursday night game. The Mariners were somewhat lucky to earn a point last weekend in Brisbane, but the 2-2 draw means Graham Arnold’s team has now gone six matches without defeat. After opening the scoring through Michael McGlinchey, they conceded two goals to Besart Berisha, before chief marksman Daniel McBreen netted an equaliser. That result made it three draws in four starts for the Mariners, with their only win coming last week when they accounted for free-falling Adelaide United 3-1 .
There has been recent talk that a couple of Chinese Super League clubs are looking at investing in the Mariners. Central Coast has rolled a number of talented young players off its production line in recent years, and its Centre of Excellence is attracting plenty of attention thanks to the likes of Tom Rogic, Mat Ryan, Mustafa Amini, Matt Simon and Bernie Ibini coming through. One youngster who hasn’t received the same fanfare, but could be a weapon heading in to the finals is Matthew Duke, who scored twice against Adelaide and then starred against Brisbane on Friday night.
Wellington will be without centre back Ben Sigmund for the game, after a rash challenge against Perth earnt him a fifth yellow card and a one-match suspension. It’s not the first time Sigmund has been in strife this season; against Adelaide United in round four he was controversially sent off for a challenge on Jeronimo Neumann, which led to accusations the Argentinian took a dive. There were some good signs on the weekend with Paul Ifill looking like he’s returning to full fitness while Isaka Cernak impressed in his first outing for the New Zealanders following his signing from Melbourne Victory.
Phoenix has an awful record travelling across the Tasman this season. The Kiwis have collected just five points from a win and two draws , while being on the wrong end of the scoreline on six occasions. They’ve conceded 14 goals in their last four away matches which were all losses. On the other hand, the Mariners are unbeaten at home collecting maximum points in seven of the eight games they’ve hosted.
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