Perth Glory will be hoping a return to nib Stadium coincides with a return to winning ways when they take on the Wellington Phoenix this Friday night in their annual White Line Fever Match.
Now in its third year, the Perth-Wellington White Line Fever Match recognises Glory’s charity partner, Therapy Focus, and the great work they do for children with disabilities. For this home game, Glory will be playing in their white ‘away’ strip and are encouraging fans to do the same by wearing white to show their support.
Glory are anticipating an enthusiastic crowd for their first Friday night match of the season with the White Line Fever initiative, kids’ tickets offer of $5 and the end of a working week all adding to the excitement of under-lights football.
Alistair Edwards’ men have endured a challenging couple of weeks following losses to the Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar as well as injuries, suspensions and transfers to a host of their regular starting XI.
Steve Pantelidis and Shane Smeltz are the latest omissions from the match day squad with Pantelidis leaving for Malaysian Super League team Selangor FC during the week while Smeltz injured his ankle against the Brisbane Roar and could be out for up to four weeks. They join the injured quartet of William Gallas, Scott Jamieson, Josh Risdon and Travis Dodd on the side lines while Captain Jacob Burns still has a further match to serve in his two-game suspension.
However, the lack of availability amongst senior players mean Glory’s young stars like Jack Clisby, Brandon O’Neill, Matthew Davies, Riley Woodcock, Ryan Edwards, Cameron Edwards, Ryo Nagai, Jamie Maclaren, Adrian Zahra, Chris Harold and Daniel De Silva will all be given the opportunity to shine.
Clisby, Woodcock, O’Neill and Davies will all be throwing their hand up for selection to partner Michael Thwaite in defence following Pantelidis’ departure.
Clisby was solid in his role as right-back for his first start off the season against Brisbane last week while Woodcock looked very comfortable at A-League level after making his senior debut in the same match in the 77th minute.
Head Coach Alistair Edwards has already shown great faith in O’Neill and Davies throughout the season, starting O’Neill in the backline for the opening two matches of the season against Adelaide United and Newcastle United, while Davies played five consecutive 90 minute games prior to the Brisbane match.
Ryan Edwards and Cameron Edwards played a full game next to Steve McGarry in the midfield last week and will be hoping to do the same against the Phoenix. Ryan Edwards’ work rate continues to be a major bonus for the Glory squad with his end-to-end capabilities nearly unlocking opposition defences throughout the season on a number of occasions.
The Perth Glory youth team had a morale-boosting 7-2 win over the Roar last Sunday with De Silva, Zahra, O’Neill all playing standout games. De Silva continues to look sharper with each game as he works his way back from an ankle injury which had hampered the talented youngster in previous weeks while Zahra scored a second-half brace against the Roar and O’Neill capped off the win with a superb injury-time free kick.
Wellington are still in search of their first win of the season but will gain confidence from the fact last time they won a Hyundai A-League match was against an Alistair Edwards’ managed Perth Glory in their 2-1 away win at nib Stadium on March 17th, 2013.
It was just under a month ago that Perth travelled to Christchurch for a 1-1 draw with Wellington, but now it’s time for the New Zealand side to fly the 5000-odd kilometres in the ‘distance derby’.
Phoenix players Glen Moss (GK), Andrew Durante, Jeremy Brockie, Jacob Spoonley, Leo Bertos and Ben Sigmund were all part of the All-Whites squad that travelled the 22’000 kilometre round trip to Mexico in their unsuccessful World Cup Qualifying campaign. Another long haul flight at this stage of the season is probably the last thing they want.
Already missing Carlos Hernandez through a quad injury, Wellington will be banking on Brockie to deliver the goals for the away side. The 26-year-old scored 16 goals last season but has been less proficient this season, only managing two goals.
International players Paul Ifill (Barbados), Kenny Cunningham (Costa Rica) and Stein Huysegems (Belgium) are also dangerous attacking outlets and have contributed a goal each so far this season.
It promises to be an absorbing contest with a marked difference in the average age. Glory’s 16 players have an average age of 22 years and 2 months compared to Phoenix’s 17 players who have an average age of 26 years and 4 months. Only time will tell if experience or youth wins out …