Phoenix keep feet firmly on ground

WHILE Wellington Phoenix’s drubbing of Gold Coast United last weekend shocked many, coach Ricki Herbert wasn’t quite as surprised.

WHILE Wellington Phoenix-s drubbing of Gold Coast United last weekend shocked many, coach Ricki Herbert wasn-t quite as surprised.

Buoyed by the result ahead of Sunday-s Hyundai A-League round 13 match against Sydney FC, the Phoenix head to Sydney Football Stadium high on confidence after putting together a superb 90-minute showing in the 6-0 shellacking of the team from the Glitter Strip.

Although many are still getting to grips with the somewhat surreal scoreline at Westpac Stadium, Herbert was more circumspect given the consistently good performances his team has been putting in throughout the past two months - performances that more often than not went unrewarded.

“Sure, you wouldn-t have picked 6-0 against Gold Coast but we were always confident of getting the three points. We-ve set a benchmark but I don-t think it (the 6-0 win) surpassed any expectations in terms of what we set out to do every week. We-ve been playing very well and now we-ve shown what we-re capable of doing.”

Herbert and the Phoenix want to back things up against Sydney FC on Sunday as they seek to topple another league-leading team.

“Sydney bring another big challenge. They-re at the top of the league and it-s probably a good one for us to have given the position they-re in. We-ll go across with confidence but we know our application has to be at the same level (as it was against Gold Coast).

“The guys have looked good at training this week, their feet are firmly on the ground and everyone in the squad has been working hard. The feeling is positive but we know that it was just one good win and that we need to continue on and keep the intensity high.”

The Phoenix will be seeking a measure of revenge against the Sydneysiders after being outplayed in a 2-0 loss round four in what was the Wellington-s side-s worst performance of the season so far.

“We didn-t play well at all right across the park,” Herbert said. “Sydney are to date the most consistently successful team in the comp and we-ll certainly go over there with respect for them. But we-ve had a good run too, so it has all the ingredients for being a very exciting game.”

Adding to the potential excitement is Sydney FC-s special offer to Aussie-based Kiwis, with $10 tickets available to ex-pats on gameday.

“It-ll be great,” said Herbert. “As we all know there are a lot of New Zealanders living over there so hopefully we-ll get a decent support group. The more the merrier.”

If the Phoenix can emulate the performance of last Sunday then the SFS showdown will be a ripper for football fans.

“Everything we did against Gold Coast flowed right from the back. Our back four has been very solid, Mark Paston-s been good in goal and the work rate and endeavour of Vince Lia and Tim Brown in the midfield got even better.

“That provided the guys at the front with lots of chances that we were able to convert. Those chances have been there in previous matches but against Gold Coast we took them well. At times you need a little bit of a break and finally we got that.”

Sunday-s match is the first of three in seven days for the Phoenix, with the Wellingtonians backing up against Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night and another home match against Perth Glory on Sunday week.

Herbert said it would be important to manage the players- workload throughout the busy period.

“That-s where the depth of our squad will be very important and we-ve reiterated that very strongly to the group this week. While some players haven-t had a lot of football they all know that their services could well be required at very short notice. That-s been reflected in the application of those guys at training and I-ve been impressed with how all the players have responded to the challenge.”

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix Sunday, November 1, 2009 Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney Local kickoff: 5pm (7pm NZDST) Referee: Gerard Parsons

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

Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7 Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Kofi DANNING, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 17. Matthew JURMAN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT. *two to be omitted*

In: Kofi DANNING (promoted), Brendan GAN (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Stephan KELLER (knee - 1 week), Mitchell PRENTICE (back - 1 week)

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

In: 21. Marco ROJAS (promoted), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - 4 weeks)

*Head-to-Heads: Played 7: Sydney FC wins 3, Wellington Phoenix wins 3 (1 draw)