Mariners Look To Stop Rising Phoenix

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For the second time in two weeks, the Central Coast will close out an A-League round, with round 14 seeing the side travel to New Zealand to take on the Phoenix.

Phil Moss’ side were at times booed last week in a dire performance at home against bottom side Melbourne Heart. In a truly uninspiring performance to start the New Year, life without Marcos Flores and Michael McGlinchey looked like a nightmare as the Mariners struggled to create anything up front, minus a few chances.

While their opponents on Sunday, Wellington, enjoyed one of the greatest wins in the club’s short history with a come from behind victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium. After a goalless first half, the Wanderers would strike first, however a double to Belgian Stein Huysegems and a goal to Tyler Boyd would see the Phoenix earn a surprising three points. A perfect kick start for 2014.

It’s the second meeting between the two sides in season 9, the first being played at North Sydney Oval in a deferred round 6 fixture. That night would see the first ever A-League match played at the iconic ground, with the Mariners earning an unconvincing 1-0 win.

Ins & Outs:
Phil Moss has named an 18 man squad for round 14 with the big inclusion being that of Berni Ibini. The 21 year old returns to the Mariners on loan from Shangai East Asia after the Chinese club granted him leave on compassionate grounds. Ibini who scored 15 goals in 61 games for the yellow & navy has been welcomed back with open arms by the club, with his pace and attacking ability a handy addition after the loss of Flores and McGlinchey.

Young defender Hayden Morton has again been promoted from the youth side.

The in-form Wellington side will welcome back attacking threat Carlos Hernandez, however they do lose Louis Fenton through injury. The 20 year old right back will miss the remainder of the season and is a big loss for the Phoenix in defence.

The Stats:
• Wellington Phoenix have won three successive A-League games – their best run in the competition since February 2012 (four wins).
• Excluding playoff matches, Wellington have not won successive A-League home games since January 2012.
• Central Coast Mariners are unbeaten in five visits to Wellington; conceding just three goals over the course of those matches (W4 D1).
• The Central Coast Mariners have kept four clean sheets in their last seven A-League matches.

The Key Issues:

Central Coast: who is going to step up in the absence of Flores and McGlinchey? It took the Mariners 68 minutes last week to even look like scoring with Matt Simon, surprisingly, creating a much needed spark up front. It was to no-avail and for the rest of the match Central Coast never looked liked scoring. Berni Ibini is back and it will be interesting to see the impact he can have on a side that has seemed flat over the last few weeks. The Mariners are third on the ladder, yet aren’t playing like a side that should be in the top three. That needs to change come Sunday.

Wellington: can they keep this momentum going? After a slow start to season 9, the Phoenix have strung together three consecutive wins, including the prized scalp of the Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium. Even though they sit ninth, after New Year’s Day there is a belief from everyone in Wellington that the Phoenix could make the finals come April. Form is a big part of winning in football and Wellington now has it in spades.

The X-Factor:
Stein Huysegems is in form at the moment and is a big part of why the Phoenix have won three in a row and are looking much more impressive. In the 13 games so far this season, the 31 year old Belgian has scored 6 goals including a brace last week against the Wanderers, and will provide plenty of headaches for the Mariners defence. With Carlos Hernandez back in for Wellington, Huysegems will be confident he can get plenty of the ball in attacking areas, and hopefully for his side, find the back of the net.

Prediction:
Despite the Mariners having a strong record in New Zealand, It’s hard to tip against the home side on this occasion. Having been in the away bay at Pirtek Stadium and seeing the Phoenix’s win live, and then comparing that to Central Coast’s performances in recent weeks, it’s hard to see Phil Moss’ side getting any points from this clash. While it should be a close game, Wellington will make it four wins on the trot.

Wellington 2-1.

HEAD-TO-HEAD:
Played 19. Wins: Central Coast 11, Wellington 5. Draws: 3

LAST TIME THEY MET:
December 19, 2013. North Sydney Oval, Sydney. Central Coast 1 – 0 Wellington

RECENT FORM (Last 5):
Central Coast: DWLWL
Wellington: WWWLL

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, 12 January 2014
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 7:00pm local (5:00pm AEDT)
Referee: Matthew Gillett
#WELvCCM

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Glen Moss (GK), 2.Manny Muscat, 5.Michael Boxall, 6.Josh Brindell-South, 7.Leo Bertos, 9.Kenny Cunningham, 10.Stein Huysegems, 11.Jeremy Brockie, 12.Tyler Boyd, 13.Albert Riera, 15.Jason Hicks, 16.17.Vince Lia, 18.Ben Sigmund, 20.Lewis Italiano (GK), 21.Carlos Hernandez, 22.Andrew Durante (c), 23.Matthew Ridenton.
**one to be omitted**
Ins: 21.Carlos Hernandez (returns from injury).
Outs: 16.Louis Fenton (shoulder injury).
Unavailable: 8.Paul Ifill (ruptured Achilles, 8-12 months), 16.Louis Fenton (shoulder injury, season).

Central Coast Mariners Squad: 1.Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 2.Daniel MCBREEN, 3.Joshua ROSE, 4.Marcel SEIP, 5.Zachary ANDERSON, 6.Brent GRIFFITHS, 7.John HUTCHINSON, 8.Nick MONTGOMERY, 9.Mitchell DUKE, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 12.Liam REDDY (Gk), 13.Hayden MORTON, 15.Storm ROUX, 16.Trent SAINSBURY, 17.Anthony CACERES, 19.Matt SIMON, 20.Bernie IBINI, 21.Mile STERJOVSKI
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 13.Hayden MORTON (promoted), 20.Bernie IBINI (loan commences)
Outs: Nil
Unavailable: 10.Marcos FLORES (knee – season), 14.Michael MCGLINCHEY (on loan – Vegalta Sendai), 18.Michael NEILL (knee – indefinite), 22.Tom SLATER (back – 1 week), 23.Adam KWASNIK (knee – season)

Matthew Berry

Matthew Berry is Football Central's Central Coast Mariners correspondent.

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