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Phoenix look to halt A-League slump

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/02/2017 Cathy Walshe

Co-coach Des Buckingham has little time for introspection as he looks to turn around Wellington Phoenix's untimely slump in A-League form.

Three weeks ago, Wellington were tracking nicely into finals contention, on a high after dispatching title contenders Melbourne Victory 3-0.

Since then, however, the Phoenix have picked up one point from a possible nine, culminating in Saturday's lacklustre 3-1 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers in New Plymouth.

The win boosted Wanderers into sixth place on the ladder, while Wellington have fallen off the pace to eighth.

And although they're still creating enough opportunities in the attacking third, the Phoenix's perennial problems with finishing have returned.

Outplayed in the midfield against Western Sydney, Wellington lacked fluency in bringing the ball through and were too often caught out on the counterattack.

Buckingham takes some consolation from the way Western Sydney, who have had similar issues, are starting to turn their season round.

"They've been in a similar position, and that came good for them tonight," he said on Saturday.

"I wouldn't say they had many clear-cut chances, but especially with the first two, they were clinical."

Buckingham and co-coach Chris Greenacre have little time to turn around Wellington's fortunes, with their next match away to competition leaders Sydney FC looming on Thursday.

It's a daunting prospect, given that Sydney are unbeaten this season, with five draws and 13 wins, and hold a nine-point lead over second-placed Melbourne Victory.

"Tonight was a big hurdle, and we now need to make sure we go to Sydney and get something," Buckingham said.

"We need to make sure we pick up points from the rest of the games for the last nine rounds."

Key to that will be making sure that opportunities are converted into goals.

"The chances are being created, it's just a matter of making sure that better decisions are made - either from individuals or combinations of forwards - to make sure the ball's in the back of the net."

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