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Post-Merrick Phoenix ready to soar again

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/12/2016 Angelo Risso
Kosta Barbarouses looks on during a Wellington Phoenix A-League training session. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Kosta Barbarouses looks on during a Wellington Phoenix A-League training session.

What a difference 11 days can make.

Less than a fortnight ago, the Wellington Phoenix slumped to the bottom of the A-League ladder with an insipid 2-0 loss to Adelaide United.

This Saturday, boosted by their win over Central Coast, they'll have the chance to jump into the top six with victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Phoenix looked rejuvenated in last weekend's triumph over the lowly Mariners, kicking off the post-Ernie Merrick era with an easy 3-0 win.

Goals to Hamish Watson, Vince Lia and Roy Krishna pushed the side back up to eighth, just three points behind fifth-placed Perth Glory.

And with winnable fixtures to come against the Wanderers, Newcastle Jets and Glory, Nix players are already narrowing their focus towards a mid-table push.

"We know that if we go on a decent run, we're still right amongst it and not far off the pace," winger Kosta Barbarouses said.

"In the A-League, if you get a bit of consistency, it goes a long way."

The addition of the 23-year-old Watson at No.9 paid immediate dividends in Hamilton, freeing Barbarouses and Krishna to wreak havoc down the sidelines.

The pair combined for 32 take-ons and eight shots at goal, and would look to continue where they left off against the Wanderers.

Last year's A-League runners-up have struggled for form and goals this season, and sit just two points above the Phoenix in sixth.

The resignation of A-League champion Merrick from the Phoenix top job last week has sparked a frenzy of speculation on the Scot's successor.

Nix general manager David Dome has whittled his shortlist to five names, with Auckland City boss Ramon Tribulietx among those considered.

Current interim coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham are also in the frame for a more permanent role after being mentored by Merrick.

Barbarouses said the British pair hadn't changed much since taking over, beyond the introduction of Watson as a bona fide target man.

But the new boss, to be in place by Christmas, would need to be capable of imposing their own style on the side.

"We've got a lot of leaders in the team and some young boys, so you need somebody who's going to overlook all that," Barbarouses said.

"Somebody with a clear focus on how they want us to play."

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