The call to "give youth a chance" has been answered by
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert before today's Hyundai
A-League game against leaders Central Coast Mariners.
While his hand might have been forced somewhat with the
unavailability of regular striker Paul Ifill who faces up to
six weeks on the sideline after ankle surgery, Herbert had
hinted he was seriously contemplating giving starts to
youngsters Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd.
Fenton made an immediate impact when promoted from the School
of Excellence at the start of the season, but Waikato product
Boyd has played only off the bench in the opening 11 rounds.
It was always expected that the club's leading goalscorer,
Jeremy Brockie, would come back in after missing the trip to
Adelaide, but there remained the possibility he would be
joined up front by Belgian Stein Huysegems and Fenton, with
Boyd again a substitute.
Herbert sprang a surprise after Thursday training by giving
Boyd a starting spot - a justified reward for the impact he
and Fenton made in the second half at Hindmarsh Stadium
where, with an ounce of luck, they would have claimed at
least a point.
They were well supported by another substitute when Benjamin
Totori entered the fray.
Determined that he should attack at every opportunity against
a Central Coast defence which has been at its stingy best
this season, Herbert will put out the youngsters either side
of Brockie who will take the central role in front of Dani
Sanchez, the midfield pivot alongside Vince Lia and Manny
Elsewhere it will be business as usual in a game which
"They are solid at the back and hard to break down," said
Herbert. "Because of that it is up to us to attack them and
I'm confident we have the players to do that."
The Mariners will start as deserved favourites after losing
only once this season, scoring a league-high 21 goals and
conceding eight - a mark equalled only by West Sydney
Wanderers who have climbed to fourth place despite scoring
only eight goals in 11 outings.
In their last meeting, six weeks ago - also at Westpac
Stadium - the visitors won 1-0, golden boot front-runner
Daniel McBreen scoring the 67th-minute winner after the home
side had dominated the first half without scoring.
The visitors heaped misery on the Phoenix who slumped to a
third straight loss in that game.
With a draw and four straight wins in their last five outings
and a six-from-six record over the Phoenix in their latest
meetings, Graham Arnold's team will run out full of
confidence and hope to maintain their league lead heading
The Phoenix have had some raw deals in recent outings, with
officials acknowledging that they were on the wrong end of a
couple of dubious calls in their loss to Adelaide.
While not reading too much into it, Herbert will probably
welcome the appointment of Peter O'Leary, who flew the New
Zealand and Oceania flag with aplomb at this month's Fifa
Club World Cup in Japan, to a Phoenix game for the first time
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Where: Westpac Stadium
When: Today, 5pm (live SS3)
Referee: Peter O'Leary