Phoenix Talisman Returns For Sydney Clash

Wellington Phoenix talisman Paul Ifill will return to the squad for tomorrow’s Hyundai A-League game against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium but whether he will be in the starting line up is still undecided.

Wellington Phoenix talisman Paul Ifill will return to the squad for tomorrow-s Hyundai A-League game against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium but whether he will be in the starting line up is still undecided.

Ifill, who has been out of action with a groin injury, came through training this morning but coach Ricki Herbert said he was still unsure whether the striker will be on the field or the bench come kick off time.

“Paul feels okay at the moment but I will wait and see how he is tomorrow,” Herbert said.

“We are only halfway through the season so we will be erring on the side of caution so far as Paul is concerned.

“He is an important player for us and I won-t be taking any risks.”

With another home game, against Perth Glory, coming up on Sunday Ifill said he was keen to play a good part in both games, whether starting or coming off the bench.

“I-d probably be happier coming off the bench, but if Ricki decides to start me then that is fine by me,” he said.

“I-m just glad to be back in the mix because it was disappointing to get a recurrence of the injury when I was going well

“The boys have been doing okay without me but not being a part of it makes you feel helpless.”

The groin problem has been troubling Ifill for some time and his last return from the injury was against Sydney at Westpac Stadium on November 27.

That day he scored in a 2-1 win and also scored in the 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar in Dunedin, as well as setting up Nicky Ward for his goal, before again succumbing to the injury.

Ifill has missed the last three games and can-t wait to get back into the action.

“I would .like the same result this time (scoring in a win over Sydney) but I will just be glad to be part of it again,” he said.

Alex Smith, who was left out of the squad that travelled to Adelaide last week, is reinstated at the expense of Nicky Ward, while Jimmy Downey, on the comeback trail following a knee operation, makes way for Ifill.

Herbert expects a stern test for his team against a Sydney side that will be smarting after a 4-0 home loss to Melbourne Heart last week.

Another factor he is wary of is that, in contrast to the Phoenix, Sydney-s away record is better than its home form with only one loss on the road this season (2-1 to the Phoenix at Westpac).

“They will be desperate after that (the 4-0 loss) but we have to be confident at home where I think we have only lost four games in four and a half years,” Herbert said.

“We-ve done much better against them at home than over there but we-ve always had some good battles with them here.”