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Phoenix depth the key to goals: Durante

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/02/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

A new-found attacking depth has the Wellington Phoenix confident of a successful 10-game sprint towards the A-League play-offs.

Captain Andrew Durante says the importance of Saturday's match against Western Sydney Wanderers in New Plymouth can't be understated, with his team sitting one place and one point outside the top six.

The Wanderers are a further point and place behind, turning the first A-League fixture in Taranaki into a pivotal affair after the Phoenix dropped points against Brisbane (1-0 loss) and Adelaide (2-2 draw) in their last two games.

"We're back in a dogfight so it's a big one for us. It has to be three points," Durante said.

"The fourth-to-seventh spots are very tight. You get a couple of wins, you're right up there. Lose a couple and you're scrambling again.

"We need to go on a bit of a run, especially against the teams that are around us."

Even though they scored twice in the Adelaide heat, they squandered countless chances, maintaining a season-long pattern.

Durante says "hesitancy" is still an issue but believes that can be shaken off.

The acquisition of seasoned striker Shane Smeltz and the shedding of early-season injury niggles leaves them promising to find the back of the net more regularly than their modest 20 goals from 17 games.

Durante points to influential attacking midfielders Michael McGlinchey and Gui Finkler starting the last two games off the bench.

"You've got to be playing well if you're keeping McGlinchey and Gui there.

"It's probably something we've never had at the football club, having quality players like that come on and make an impact.

"The buildup is good but we can be a lot more ruthless."

Italian defender Marco Rossi has served a one-game game suspension and is set to start alongside Durante. Australian Ryan Lowry, who impressed in the Adelaide heat at centre back, is likely to return to the bench.

The Phoenix have an impressive record when they take home games outside their Wellington base.

However, Durante hopes they have better support than the modest crowds on hand for games in Hamilton and Auckland in December. That included a 2-2 draw with Western Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium.

STATS THAT MATTER

- New Plymouth is the eighth centre in New Zealand outside Wellington to host a Phoenix game. The others are Auckland (6 games), Christchurch (4), Lower Hutt (3), Dunedin (2), Hamilton (1), Napier (1) and Palmerston North (1).

- The Phoenix have a good record from those 18 games, posting nine wins, seven draws and two losses.

- Western Sydney Wanderers have scored exactly two goals in each of their last five games against Wellington, winning three of them.

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