March 26, 2015 11:51:31 UK
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is running the rule over several young contenders for a defensive spot in Sunday’s home game with Sydney FC.
The Phoenix are without seven players due to international duty for what is a key game against the Sky Blues at Westpac Stadium.
I think where we’re very strong is in midfield and I don’t want to compromise midfield.
Sydney, who are one of three teams who are four points behind Merrick’s table-topping side, are missing a number of key players themselves including top scorer Marc Janko.
Wellington, who are 5.00 to win the Grand Final, are without both fullbacks Louis Fenton and Michael Boxall. Manny Muscat has overcome his shoulder injury and will come in for Fenton at left back but Merrick is unsure who to pick on the other side of defence.
Three Junior All Whites are contenders, as the Phoenix coach is shying away from moving Vince Lia from midfield to cover for Boxall’s absence.
Matt Ridenton, Andrew Blake and Tamupiwa Dimairo are in the frame to face the Sky Blues.
“I think where we’re very strong is in midfield and I don’t want to compromise midfield. That’s a big part of my thinking,” said Merrick.
“Let’s not reduce our strength in one particular area, and move people around, when it’s one position, it’s a fullback’s role. And given the number of experienced players we’ve got in the team, I think we could cope with a youngster and this is a time for a youngster to step up.
“Andrew Blake’s doing really well, Matthew Ridenton’s almost back to full fitness and young Tam Dimairo is doing really well. I like their competitiveness, they’re comfortable on the ball and they understand the position really well.”
Nathan Burns’ place in attack will go to veteran Joel Griffiths while Alex Rodriguez will come in for Michael McGlinchey, pushing Roly Bonevacia forward into the No 10 role.
The Phoenix are 2.37 to beat Sydney FC, who are 2.80 with the draw 3.50.
Don’t forget, if the match finishes 0-0, bet365 will refund all pre-match Correct Score, Half-Time/Full-Time and Scorecast bets with our fantastic Bore Draw Money Back offer.
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