Wellington coach Ernie Merrick is sticking to an attacking approach against Adelaide United as the Phoenix look to firm up their A-League play-off hopes.
The Wellington Phoenix begin a pivotal phase of their come-from-behind bid to make the A-League play-offs when they host in-form Adelaide United in Auckland.
The Reds are one of three teams from the bottom half of the table that the Phoenix, themselves back in ninth spot, will face in consecutive weekends, making the fixtures effective six-pointers.
But Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has ruled out any retreat from his side’s attacking intent because of the stakes involved at Eden Park on Saturday night, and then against Newcastle and Melbourne Heart.
“We want to win the next three games,” he said.
“We’re not playing for draws. It doesn’t matter about the form of the other side.”
He cited Wellington’s approach in their 2-1 defeat to leaders Brisbane in the heat and humidity at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night, when they tried to build on a 1-0 lead and then chase the winner after the Roar equalised.
Adelaide will go in with the confidence of an unbeaten seven-match run that has lifted them to sixth on the table.
Three of the Reds’ four wins during their streak have been against the league’s top three sides, although they needed a late Ryan Griffiths goal to snatch a 2-2 draw with the bottom-placed Heart last weekend.
However, Merrick feels the Phoenix have momentum of their own, despite the loss to the Roar.
They are sitting just four points behind Adelaide, having picked up 13 points from their five matches before the trip to Brisbane.
In what will be the first meeting of the season between the clubs, Merrick will have Costa Rican pair Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham back from international duty.
However, Belgian striker Stein Huysegems, the league’s top marksman with eight goals, might need to pass a match-day fitness test on a calf problem, although the player himself is confident of taking the pitch.
Merrick can see stylistic similarities between the Phoenix and the Reds, who also have a new coach this season in Josep Gombau, and he’s predicting plenty of end-to-end action.
“Our attacking game doesn’t change,” he said.
“We get numbers forward, not only attackers, but we’re getting our fullbacks and mid-fielders forward.
“Defensively, we’ll alter slightly to make sure we close them down in the front half and try to win the ball, so we can counter quickly.”