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Phoenix have fight on their hands: coach

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/02/2017

Des Buckingham wants twin Sydney setbacks in the space of five days to instil the Wellington Phoenix with a backs-against-the-wall mentality.

The Phoenix co-coach had no excuses after his side crashed to a 3-1 loss to unbeaten A-League leaders Sydney FC - the same scoreline suffered against Western Sydney Wanderers in New Plymouth last week.

It leaves the eighth-placed Wellington outfit in danger of losing touch with the top-six although, with two months remaining, there is still time to launch a recovery.

They must shed their inconsistency against a string of opponents ranked above them over coming weeks, starting with Melbourne City at home next Saturday.

"We need to quickly regroup. We've got eight games left and we need to fight for every single point we can," Buckingham said.

"Not only to get into the play-offs, but to make sure that we arrive in that play-off spot willing to take on... another team in that top four."

Buckingham admitted his team were outplayed in the first half in Sydney, allowing the hosts too much space down the left as Rhyan Grant and Bobo scored inside 22 minutes.

Midfielder Alex Rodriguez netted his first goal in 63 Phoenix appearances soon afterwards, deflecting a Gui Finkler corner.

Injecting striker Hamish Watson at halftime gave the Phoenix a boost in vitality as they sought an equaliser before a defensive mistake gifted Milos Ninkovic a decisive third Sydney FC goal.

Buckingham admitted the hosts were playing with the "aura" of a team who are unbeaten in 19 league games.

While his side weren't overawed, they were naive at times defensively.

Italian central defender Marco Rossi was ruled out a day earlier with a minor injury, giving inexperienced Australian Ryan Lowry a tough assignment.

Buckingham said Lowry and left-back Jacob Tratt, who has had a strong campaign, were both exposed at times.

"They've done very well up until this point in the season," he said.

"From where they were six months ago to where they are now, is a huge development for those two. Unfortunately tonight, the opposition got the better of them."

Buckingham confirmed the Phoenix were likely to field a largely second-string outfit when they host Chinese club Beijing BG in a friendly match on Tuesday.

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