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AUSTRALIAN A-LEAGUE

Westpac Stadium, New Zealand

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Wellington Phoenix FC

  • Jeremy Brockie 22'

1 - 0

FT

Herbert wary of Wanderers' A-League threat

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is taking little comfort from Western Sydney's lack of finishing over the first eight weeks of the A-League ahead of their ninth-round clash in Wellington on Sunday.

The league newcomers have netted just five times for three wins and a draw, sitting one place and a scant point above the seventh-placed Phoenix.

Herbert says the Wanderers showed a glimpse of their potential when the two teams drew 1-1 in a pre-season match in Christchurch.

"When you look at them, they're creating chances. They lost to Newcastle but could have won 4-0 or 5-0," Herbert said.

"They've got the potential there. We're going to have to be good on the day, and if we can get a clean sheet out of this one, I'll be well pleased."

Western Sydney are missing playmakers Youssouf Hersi, serving out a two-match ban, and attacking midfielder Aaron Mooy, on duty with the Socceroos in Hong Kong for the East Asian Cup in Hong Kong.

But Herbert says the Sydneysiders still present a real threat, with marquee Japanese import Shinji Ono working his way into form and a strong defensive unit well marshalled by central defenders Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Michael Beauchamp.

"Ono's always going to be a key factor for them, and they've got a solid back four with players that have been in the A-league for a number of years," he said.

"They know what it's about. They're a good, competent team, a hard-working team."

However, Herbert says the Phoenix are approaching Sunday's game with renewed confidence after halting a three-match losing streak with a win over Newcastle and a draw at Perth in their past two outings.

There was still plenty of room for improvement, he said.

"Our passing could have been a little bit better in Perth, just the retention in midfield there. But again, it's just new combinations, and it might take a couple of weeks."

A settled midfield comprising Vinnie Lia, Manny Muscat and Alex Smith is growing in confidence, while Belgian striker Stein Huysegems and Solomon Islander Benjamin Totori have both recovered from ankle injuries.

"It's a great chance for us now, leading into Christmas with four of the next five games at home."

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