Wellington Phoenix U-20 will have the advantage of a bolstered squad going into Sunday’s Stirling Sports Premiership encounter against Auckland City at David Farrington Park.
During training this week, Head Coach Andy Hedge thought it best to focus on the positives of last weekend’s display early on against Canterbury United, especially when in possession of the ball.
“We’re really just trying to build on the messages from last week against Canterbury,” Hedge said.
“Earlier on in the week they were a bit flat obviously disappointed with the hangover of losing like we did and having two players sent off but we’ve tried to keep the focus very much on that first half performance we put in both defensively but more importantly with the ball.
“We were outstanding with the ball for large periods of the game and I think we were unfortunate not to be two or three goals up by half-time.”
The Nix U-20 boss believes his young side is set to face one of their sterner tests of the season against a confident Navy Blues team, which includes former Phoenix A-League star, Albert Riera.
“The team [Auckland City] are obviously one of the best teams that this competition has had over the past 10 years or so and they always set the benchmark,” Hedge said.
“Their start this season has probably proved that they are desperate to get back and be Champions this year.
“We’re under no illusions that this is going to be one of the toughest games we’ll play this year and again it’s another great test for our kids.”
Phoenix U-20 will be looking to making a statement against the eight-time Oceania Club Champions in a hotly contested Wellington-Auckland match-up.
“I think whenever you play a team that is that good there’s always going to be a desire for the so-called underdogs who want to beat them,” the Head Coach added.
“We’ve had some really good battles with them. We beat them up there [in Auckland] recently and we were the first team to do so in a long time so I’m sure they’re going to want to do the same to us here.”
Phoenix U-20 welcome young duo James McGarry and Sarpreet Singh back into the squad after the pair spent an extended time on the sideline recovering from injury.
“They [McGarry and Singh] have both been tracking well for the last four to six weeks so they’ve been really frustrated and are champing at the bit,” Hedge said.
“We’re going to try and keep their enthusiasm down to a certain level so that they can actually perform.”
The Nix will also be able to call on some more members of Ernie Merrick’s squad following the postponement of Saturday’s Hyundai A-League match against Melbourne Victory.
Phoenix members will be able to see the match at David Farrington Park free of charge.
Stirling Sports Premiership – Round 5
Sunday, 20 November 2016
Wellington Phoenix U-20 v Auckland City FC
David Farrington Park, Miramar
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Wellington Phoenix U-20: 20. Lews ITALIANO (GK), 5. Ryan LOWRY, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. James McGARRY, 16. Louis FENTON, 23. Matthew RIDENTON, 24. Logan ROGERSON, 25. Sarpreet SINGH, 27. Joe BELL, 28. Max MATA, 29. Liam WOOD, 30. Oliver SAIL (GK), 31. Sam PHILIP, 38. Ruairi CAHILL-FLEURY, 40. Luke JOHNSON, 42. Luke TONGUE