Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix

Central Coast Mariners and the Wellington Phoenix will meet in a Round 6 fixture of the 2013-14 A-League season at North Sydney Oval on Thursday, December 19 at 7.45pm AEDT.

Central Coast Mariners and the Wellington Phoenix will meet in a Round 6 fixture of the 2013-14 A-League season at North Sydney Oval on Thursday, December 19 at 7.45pm AEDT.

Played: 18 – Wins: Mariners 10, Phoenix 5, Draws: 3

Previous encounter:
Mariners 5-0 Phoenix, February 7, 2013

Past five matches:

Mariners: LWDWL

Phoenix: LLDLD

The Game:

This clash comes more than a month after it was set to go ahead only to be rescheduled due to New Zealand’s commitments in the World Cup play-offs. Some things have changed since with the Mariners now possessing a new coach – but a few things have also stayed the same with the Phoenix still searching for a breakthrough win. Phil Moss’ side head into the match on the back of one of the worst defeats in the club’s history, a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of lowly Adelaide United. It was only their first defeat under the new manager and it will be interesting to see how they respond. Moss might be tempted to ring the changes with a grand final rematch against Western Sydney to come on Monday, meaning the likes of Matt Simon, Mile Sterjovski, Zac Anderson and Anthony Caceras could come into calculations for a start. Wellington fell to another defeat in front of their home fans, this time going down 2-1 to league-leaders Brisbane Roar. The Phoenix more than matched their opponents for long periods but were made to pay for some poor finishing in front of goal. Like the Mariners, Wellington coach Ernie Merrick may opt to tinker with his mis-firing side ahead of a clash with Sydney FC back in New Zealand less than 72 hours later.

The big issue:

Mariners – Has the upheaval at the club finally caught up with the players? The Mariners are no stranger to having to deal with off-field distraction over the last couple of seasons but there has been more in this campaign than ever before. Coach Graham Arnold has left and has taken Andrew Clark with, there’s been constant speculation about potential moves to North Sydney Oval and now it seems key attacker Michael McGlinchey could follow ‘Arnie’ to Japan. Last week’s capitulation to the Reds was so uncharacteristic of the Mariners it’s hard not to think it’s all starting to have an effect on the playing group. This is a match they should win and if they don’t those questions and doubts will only increase.

Phoenix – Restoring confidence and belief. It’s a hard thing to do when it’s the club’s last win dates back to late last season but it’s vital they find something if they want to turn their string of good performances into victories. Nothing sums up how low the side are on confidence more than Jeremy Brockie’s shocking miss in the loss to the Roar last weekend. If things were going well the Kiwi international would slam that chance home without a problem, but when you’re scrounging around for a win those chances can go begging. It’s not quite last-chance saloon for the Phoenix but it’s getting close.

The game breaker:
Daniel McBreen – The veteran striker has struggled so far to reach the heights of a superb campaign last season, where he finished with the A-League’s golden-boot and picked up the Joe Marston medal for his match-winning performance in the grand final. But it’s hard to see McBreen being down for long, which could spell trouble for the Phoenix. If the Mariners can start giving McBreen the type of service he thrives on it won’t be long before his finding the back of the net again on a regular basis.