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Phoenix signing Smeltz set to face Glory

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/01/2017 Justin Chadwick

Shane Smeltz © Matt King/Getty Images Shane Smeltz Perth Glory are set to confront a blast from the past when they take on the Wellington Phoenix in Thursday night's A-League clash at nib Stadium.

Kiwi international Shane Smeltz was a fan favourite during his three-year stint at Glory, but he'll be enemy No.1 on Thursday night when he lines up for the Phoenix.

Smeltz has signed on with Wellington for the rest of the A-League season, and he's expected to make his return off the bench against Perth.

The 35-year-old won't be wearing his usual No.9 - that has already been taken by teammate Kosta Barbarouses.

So instead, he's been given permission by FFA to wear the number 99.

Phoenix have enjoyed somewhat of a revival since coach Ernie Merrick quit his post in early December.

Wellington have snared one win and three draws under co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre.

Phoenix hope the addition of Smeltz will boost their struggling attack, which has netted just 13 goals in 12 games.

Only two points separates the eighth-placed Phoenix from fifth-placed Perth, making this match a critical encounter.

Glory's record 10-game unbeaten run at home came to a crashing halt in December when they suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Newcastle.

That defeat was followed by a 4-1 home loss to Sydney FC, leaving Glory's title hopes hanging by a thread.

Compounding Glory's woes were rumours that star recruit Rhys Williams would leave the club during the January transfer window.

That move still looks likely to eventuate, but Glory have at least sparked new life into their campaign with two fighting efforts on the road.

Goalkeeper Liam Reddy pulled off two penalty saves in his side's 3-3 draw with Melbourne City, while Glory snared another valuable point on the road when they drew 1-1 with Western Sydney.

The road results saw Glory jump up to fifth spot, but they are still six points adrift of the top four.

Glory coach Kenny Lowe was reluctant to look back at his side's recent troubles at home, instead preferring to focus on their fighting efforts on the road.

"Now it's time for us to maybe kick on hopefully," Lowe said.

Perth will enter the match without suspended midfielder Brandon Wilson, while Vince Lia has been rubbed out for Wellington.

STATS THAT MATTER

*Perth have lost each of their last two games on home soil. Not since February 2011 when they lost three home games in a row have they endured a longer streak.

*Perth Glory have won five of their past seven games against Wellington, including each of the last three.

*Wellington Phoenix are winless in their last five Thursday games (D1, L4), conceding an average of 2.8 goals per game across that span. The last time they won a game on a Thursday was in December 2012.

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