Gould: We must deny 'God'

THE striker dubbed “God” has been the centre of attention in the lead-up to Sunday’s clash between Wellington Phoenix and the North Queensland Fury, but the hosts are working on ensuring he gets no opportunities to be the centre of attention on the playing field.

THE striker dubbed “God” has been the centre of attention in the lead-up to Sunday-s clash between Wellington Phoenix and the North Queensland Fury, but the hosts are working on ensuring he gets no opportunities to be the centre of attention on the playing field.

Former Liverpool and England legend Robbie Fowler makes his first appearance in New Zealand at Westpac Stadium on Sunday when he leads the Fury against the Phoenix in a Hyundai A-League 2009/10 round seven clash that will be a mouth-watering one for fans.

Fowler, one of football-s greatest ever strikers, has been in superb form for the Fury, having nailed four goals - including last weekend-s divine winner against Sydney FC.

The Phoenix, meanwhile, have their own in-form English strike force in Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre and a special record they want to maintain - an unbeaten run of eight games at Westpac Stadium stretching back to October last year.

Phoenix assistant coach Jonathan Gould who, along with Ifill, has played against Fowler in the past, said the key to limiting the impact of the 34-year-old star striker would be to deny him possession.

“It-s the same approach you take with any striker, if you starve them of supply they-re not going to get opportunities. The difference with Robbie is that he can create something out of nothing. You only have to look at the last two goals he scored - it was a deft touch against the Roar and then he hit one from 30 yards against Sydney.

“That-s where, as a defender, you can-t afford to switch off at any moment. As a defender when you play against someone like him you look forward to that challenge and hopefully our back four will see the threat he poses and rise to that challenge. If we stop Robbie from scoring we-ve got a great chance of winning the game.”

The other threat would come from putting too much emphasis on shutting down Fowler and ignoring the danger posed by the Fury-s other key men.

“How far the Fury have come in the past four or five weeks is a real credit to their coach, Ian Ferguson,” said Gould. “They work incredibly hard and they-ve got players all over the pitch who have got something to prove.”

The Phoenix will be without Jon McKain on Sunday, the classy defender suffering a quadriceps tear late in the 1-1 draw away to Melbourne Victory. However, New Zealand international centre back Ben Sigmund returns to the squad after recovering from a hip knock picked up during New Zealand-s international friendly win against Jordan before the Victory match.

It was a dominant performance by the Phoenix at Etihad Stadium, the visitors unlucky not to have taken all three points from the match.

Gould said the drive now was to convert dominance into wins.

“You hear about ‘conversion rates- in rugby all the time and that-s what we-re after now - we-ve now got to turn the one-point draws into three-point wins. If you can go away and get points on the road like we have done then they don-t become ‘good- points until you regularly extend that to three points at home.

“We had 14 opportunities on goal against Melbourne. If we create that many at home against the Fury this weekend and we convert a few there-s every chance we can run away with the game. We need to show the same tenacity in the tackle we showed against Melbourne, the same work rate, and we have to exploit our chances and be clinical at the other end.

“If we put all that together we-ll be fine.”

For the record, former Coventry goalkeeper Gould played against Liverpool-s Fowler in the English Premier League. He was also between the sticks for Celtic in UEFA and Champions League matches against Fowler-s Reds.

“And Robbie never scored past me,” Gould said. “He-s one of the few that haven-t!”

Ifill-s previous clashes against Fowler were with Sheffield United (v Liverpool) and Crystal Palace (v Cardiff in the Championship).

Sunday, 20 September 2009 Wellington Phoenix v North Queensland Fury Westpac Stadium, Wellington Local kickoff: 3pm (1pm AEST) Referee: Peter Green

Live and exclusive broadcast on Sky Sport 1 and Fox Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington).

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 16. David MULLIGAN, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *five to be omitted*

In: DIEGO (return from injury), Jiang CHEN (promoted), Adrian CACERES (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Ben SIGMUND (return from injury), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted) Out: Jon McKAIN (quad - 3 weeks) Unavailable: Nil

North Queensland Fury squad: 1. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 4. Scott WILSON, 6. Ufuk TALAY, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 8. Shane STEFANUTTO, 9. Robbie FOWLER (c), 11. David WILLIAMS, 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 16. Paul KOHLER 18. James ROBINSON, 19. Daniel MCBREEN, 21. John TAMBOURAS 22. Karl DODD, 23. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 30. Matt HAM *two to be omitted*

In: Scott WILSON (return from injury), Paul KOHLER (return from suspension). Out: Dyron DAAL (off-contract), Osama MALIK (not selected), Fred AGIUS (not selected) Unavailable: Jacob TIMPANO (hamstring - indefinite), Jeremy BROCKIE (quadriceps - 2 weeks), Justin PASFIELD (rib injury - 1/2 weeks)