Sport

Phoenix looking for Christmas joy

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert. Mark Mitchell

RICKI Herbert is playing "shuffle the pack" in search of Christmas joy.

The Wellington Phoenix Hyundai A-League season is on another downer with the limp effort on Sunday costing them not only more points but also midfielder Nicky Ward who was left on the sideline for tonight's match against the Newcastle Jets after a head clash.

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The Phoenix beat the Jets, also at Westpac Stadium, early in the season for their first win. They, like the Jets who won first-up over Melbourne Heart, have won three times since.

Both teams go into tonight's game off losses. The Phoenix lead the Jets by two points but have played one more game.

With Ward joining Paul Ifill and Tony Lochhead on the sidelines, Herbert will look elsewhere for the inspiration which is sadly missing when Ifill is out.

Not that he does not have readymade substitutes in Daniel Cortes and Dani Sanchez, but they have failed, in limited opportunities, to provide the spark the Phoenix need.

Daniel had 30 minutes in the loss to Melbourne Victory and turned in a reasonable effort impressing Herbert with his energetic display.

He hopes that cameo will lead to a start tonight.

"It is the first time in my five years here that I have had four games on the bench and not got on the field, apart from the minute or so against Perth when Tony Lochhead got injured," said Daniel who scored the first A-League goal for the Wellington club. "Of course I wasn't happy, and it was very frustrating, but I respect Ricki and the decisions he has to make.

"All I can do is train hard and if I do get an opportunity show what I can do. The last time I got a start was in Brisbane and I wasn't as well prepared as I could have been as I only found out I was playing when Dani Sanchez got injured in the warm up.

"If I do [get a start] I will be giving it everything I can to help the team and show Ricki what I can do."

American Alex Smith turned in another encouraging display in the loss to the Victory and showed he might be in line for a contract extension next month.

But, as has been the case too often this season, the inability to turn a decent flow of half chances into goals has been their Achilles heel.

Herbert will again be casting a casual eye on the opposition, in particular All Whites striker Jeremy Brockie who has impressed in the Jets this season.

Defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley has declared himself fit after a hamstring injury kept him out of the Jets' 2-1 home loss to Sydney FC last Saturday.

The 26-year-old former Socceroo said he was keen to help the team end a two-game losing skid.

Coach Gary van Egmond has yet to name a stand-in captain for the suspended Jobe Wheelhouse.

Topics:  a-league wellington phoenix


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