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Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert insists Belgian import Stein Huysegems remains part of the club's plans, despite him being an unused substitute against the Melbourne Heart last night.
Herbert has used a front three of Jeremy Brockie, Tyler Boyd and Louis Fenton in the last two games, leaving Huysegems - one of the side's highest-paid players - sitting on the bench.
The former Belgian international, who signed a two-year contract with the club in September, played only 13 minutes in the Phoenix's 1-1 draw with the Mariners last Saturday and, although he warmed up last night, didn't enter the fray as the Wellingtonians dispatched the Heart 3-2.
Huysegems enjoyed a great start to his Phoenix career with three goals in the opening four games of the season but his involvement has been staggered since and he has struggled to make an impact in his last five outings.
The 30-year-old is perhaps the side's most decorated and experienced player given his top-flight stints in Belgium and the Netherlands and Herbert said it was a coup to get him when he signed with the club.
Last night Herbert was forced to pull Leo Bertos due to a tight hamstring and Vince Lia was spelled as he continues to work towards peak fitness, but the coach didn't use his third substitution and left Huysegems on ice.
"If it hadn't been quite the wave that was coming in the second half, I think Stein would've come on . It was a difficult one, too," Herbert said.
"Looking at the substitutions, we thought Vinnie would give us 70-75, that's where he's at. Leo, it was just a shame I had to make that change. So that kind of forced our arm a little bit more. I think some players needed to get the full 90, knuckle it out and keep that pressure coming. But no, [Huysegems] is a strong part of what we are doing. He's been on the scoresheet three times [this season] and I'm sure he'll be on there again."
The Phoenix's next A-League encounter comes against the Roar in Brisbane on New Year's Day and, with such a short turnaround, the players are expected to be given time to rest during the next few days rather than be flogged on the training pitch.
After impressing in his last two appearances from the bench, Herbert said Solomon Islands international Benjamin Totori could start in Brisbane, while a long-awaited debut may be in store of another one of the club's young tyros.
"I thought Benji was good tonight and he's maybe a shot to start and he basically destroyed the [Heart] left-back, didn't he? So he's a good option if we need to rotate anybody at the top but the other player I'll be travelling is Cameron Lindsay."
Lindsay, who operates predominantly as a midfielder, has almost become the forgotten man of the club after he signed a youth contract last summer.
The 20-year-old didn't play a game last season and was set to make his maiden A-League appearance when the Phoenix were forced to play a depleted line-up in round two against the Heart due to international commitments but Lindsay was forced out due to illness.
Bertos is expected to be fit for the game against the Roar but injured goalkeeper Glen Moss is likely to be another three to four weeks away as he recovers from a hernia operation.