Young gun fired up

LIKE his team’s fortunes, the form of Wellington Phoenix young gun Troy Hearfield is on the up.

LIKE his team-s fortunes, the form of Wellington Phoenix young gun Troy Hearfield is on the up.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder-striker has played a pivotal role in the Phoenix-s mid-to-late season surge and is relishing the prospect of playoffs football. After a slow start to the season the Phoenix now have three matches to push their claims to a top-four spot, starting with Sunday-s away match against Sydney FC.

Like his team, Hearfield also had an off-colour start to the competition. He played a 2008 Pre-Season Cup match at right back and performed admirably, but struggled to nail down a starting spot for the competition proper in his favoured midfield role.

But with Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert signalling his side-s more attacking bent, Hearfield was given the chance to form a strike partnership with Shane Smeltz and Leo Bertos. Hearfield has scored twice for the Phoenix and has made a big impression with his ability to upset opposition defences and set up goals for his strike partners.

It was Hearfield who got things under way for the Phoenix in last weekend-s 3-0 win against the Newcastle Jets, his wonderful, curling cross latched on to by Bertos, who bundled it into the goal. Later Hearfield-s jinking run into the Jets- penalty box led to him being knocked down by a desperate defender. The spot kick was awarded and Golden Boot leader Shane Smeltz duly converted to take his season scoring tally to 12.

Hearfield, who came to the Phoenix from the Jets, said the win against his old team was a special one. He also dismissed suggestions by Jets coach Gary van Egmond following the match at Westpac Stadium that the Jets had gifted the match to the Phoenix.

“It was very satisfying for the team and for me personally to beat the Jets 3-0. We-re a very good football team despite what some people have said about us. To win football matches you need to score goals and they weren-t able to do that. We scored three goals, they scored none. You can-t argue with that.”

Hearfield believed the Phoenix had rediscovered the form and determination that took them to the final of the 2008 Pre-Season Cup.

“I think we learned that right from pre-season that you have to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. If you can grind teams down and get stuck in for the full 90 then you-ve got a very good chance. That-s what we did against Newcastle and got the win.”

Hearfield has also rediscovered his own drive personally, acknowledging that he had struggled in the early stages of the season to find the form that brought him Olyroos (Australia under-23) selection.

“It took a while for me to settle in - a new club, new surroundings. I had pre-season then I hit a bit of a rough patch where things weren-t going well for me but I kept my head and some key people just told me to keep working hard and that-s what I did.

“Now things are on the rise for me.”

The Phoenix-s attention turns to Sunday-s clash with Sydney FC at the Sydney Football Stadium and Hearfield knows just how important the match is to his side-s playoffs ambitions.

“Sydney FC are a good footballing team and this game is important for them. But for us a top-four spot is up for grabs and we-re going there with the aim of getting nothing but three points.

“That-ll put us right in the mix and make the match against Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium on January 18 some game.”