The Dominion Post
Nix import to miss cup clash
Wellington Phoenix will be out to avoid another FFA Cup upset when they tackle second-tier side Brisbane Strikers tomorrow night. But they will have to do it without one of their major offseason signings.
Mexican midfielder Ulises Davila and Australian forward Jaushua Sotirio have both been held back from the round of 32 fixture as a precaution, with youngsters Sam Sutton and Oskar van Hattum travelling to Brisbane in their place.
Louis Fenton is also unavailable as he remains sidelined with a broken foot which cut short his 2018-19 campaign.
New coach Ufuk Talay said the two recruits have been battling with injury niggles in recent days and he did not want to risk them for the clash with the mid-table Queensland NPL side.
‘‘There’s a couple of players left at home at this stage for various reasons but that’s why we have depth in the squad and I’m happy with the players that we have,’’ Talay said.
In their absence the front four essentially picks itself, with Ben Waine set to partner David Ball up top with Cameron Devlin and Callum McCowatt operating in behind the strikers.
The Phoenix have traditionally struggled in the FFA Cup, registering just one win in five years. That was against Central Coast Mariners in 2015, which is the only time they have progressed past the round of 32.
Last season they were humbled 1-0 by Bentleigh Greens, another second-tier outfit.
Newly-appointed Phoenix captain Steven Taylor made his club debut in that match and said he did not have happy memories of it.
However, he said the result served as a good reminder that the Phoenix cannot take any lower-tier opposition lightly.
‘‘That game did hurt, for my first game as well. It was a tough one to swallow for myself. We probably didn’t show them the respect they deserved,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘It was going to be a difficult game, we knew that, but we allowed them far too much possession and lost off one set-piece.
‘‘Them going to 10-men probably didn’t help us, but we did learn from that and thankfully the season went well for us.
‘‘I’ve experienced it all my career back in England, especially at Newcastle playing against the lesser sides from the lower leagues, we always struggled because it was their FA Cup game, they’re fighting for lives and everyone expects an upset on the night. For us that’s the fire in our belly, to make sure that doesn’t happen.’’
The Strikers’ biggest threat is likely to come from forward Andy Pengelly, who has scored a whopping 36 goals during a recordbreaking season. Pengelly recently scored nine goals in one match and Talay said the Phoenix will have to be alert to his threats.
‘‘We’ve been watching them quite closely ever since we got drawn against them,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re a decent side, they’re mid-table at this stage of the Queensland Premier League and they beat the young Roar on the weekend. They’re a little bit up and down but there is some quality there and there’s a player there who scored 36 goals this season up front so there’s players to watch out for.’’
Meanwhile, the Phoenix have signed a two-year kit deal with Paladin after ending their association with adidas. They will don an all black strip for the FFA Cup, with the A-League kit set to be unveiled in the coming weeks. Huawei has also extended its sponsorship for a further 12 months.