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Goal-less Phoenix ready to end drought

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/10/2016 Cathy Walshe

Andrew Durante of the Phoenix runs onto the ball during the round two A-League match between the Perth Glory and the Wellington Phoenix at nib Stadium on October 16. © Paul Kane/Getty Images Andrew Durante of the Phoenix runs onto the ball during the round two A-League match between the Perth Glory and the Wellington Phoenix at nib Stadium on October 16. After two games, two losses and no goals, there's little doubt what's at the top of Ernie Merrick's wish list when the Wellington Phoenix host unbeaten Sydney FC on Sunday.

Beaten 1-0 by Melbourne City in the A-League's opening round, and 2-0 by Perth Glory last week, Merrick's Phoenix outfit have looked useful at times, threatening on occasion, but have been unable to convert opportunities into goals.

In contrast, Sydney have set the early pace in recording 4-0 wins over Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners.

"It's all very well to talk the talk, and talk about the players on paper, but it's very important we start scoring goals, winning games and taking all three points," Merrick said.

"We can't go another week not scoring a goal."

Wellington haven't had the ideal start to the season, missing five players on All Whites duty for the first game, and fielding some tired and jet-lagged players for the second.

But with the luxury of a solid week's training, and a fully fit and rested squad, Merrick is confident the Phoenix will deliver against Sydney.

Defender Tom Doyle is good for a full 90 minutes after a hamstring tweak left him on limited time last week, and keeper Glen Moss has been cleared to play after he was clattered by Perth striker Joel Chianese in a studs-up tackle.

It's unlikely there'll be any surprises in Merrick's starting 11, although there's less certainty around the bench where competition is fierce for a spot.

"You've got to consolidate what you've got, you've got to have some consistency around the framework of the team," he said.

"And the fight to get on the bench is exactly the way it should be - there'll be some good players not even getting on the bench this week."

Merrick is also eager to test the Phoenix against Graham Arnold's more attack-minded Sydney FC.

"I would rather play a team like that with more open-type play than a defensive counter-attacking team.

"I'd rather measure ourselves against a team that's expected to get in the top four, as we are.

"We'll be up for the challenge."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Phoenix are unbeaten in three games against Sydney FC with two draws and a win, but come into this one on the back of six straight losses.

* Sydney FC attacker Filip Holosko has scored with all three of his shots on target this season to be the A-League's top scorer.

* Wellington are the only side yet to score a goal this season

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