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Phoenix rookies ready to step up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/10/2016 Cathy Walshe

Coach Ernie Merrick is expecting big things from his young Australian rookies when Wellington Phoenix host Melbourne City in their A-League season opener on Saturday.

He's anticipating youngsters Adam Parkhouse and Jacob Tratt will come under intense scrutiny, particularly given Melbourne's depth and pace up front.

City will be missing star Tim Cahill to the Socceroos, but have last season's golden boot winner Bruno Fornaroli, and plenty of speed in new signings Bruce Kamau and Nicolas Colazo.

With four players on All Whites duty, including skipper and defensive lynchpin Andrew Durante, the Phoenix will need big games from their new signings, but Merrick is confident they will deliver.

Parkhouse, 23, played on the left wing for NSW Premier League club Manly United and has impressed Merrick at left back in the Phoenix's pre-season.

"Adam's played a fair amount of non-league football in England, which is pretty rough and tough, in that left side midfield role.

"To play there, you've got to be able to attack on the left side, you've got to be able to create, and you've got to be able to defend."

At 1.90m, 22-year-old Tratt brings height and pace to Wellington's back four, where he'll slot in at right back in place of Louis Fenton, called into the All Whites for their friendlies this weekend against Mexico and the United States.

And while Wellington will be without New Zealand striker Kosta Barbarouses and midfielder Michael McGlinchey, Merrick is keen to finally unleash new signing Gui Finkler.

The former Melbourne Victory playmaker has been allocated fewer defensive duties, and seems to be relishing the extra opportunities up front.

"Gui's enjoying himself because I've given him a little more freedom on attack - he doesn't have to defend as much," Merrick said.

"We've got Alex Rodriguez, Vince Lia and Roly Bonevacia doing that job for him, so he's free to get forward as much as possible and get into goal scoring positions.

"I think Gui is going to score goals from open play, as well as from free kicks and set pieces."


* Melbourne City have won only one of their last eight games away from home in the A-League

* The Phoenix have lost three of their last four games against City, and have failed to score in four of their last six encounters against the Melbourne side

* Wellington have hosted City nine times in the A-League regular season, and have lost only once

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