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Doyle poised for Phoenix starting return

AAP logoAAP 24/12/2016

All Whites defender Tom Doyle is poised for his second start of the A-League season as the Wellington Phoenix inch closer to fielding their strongest possible side.

Doyle is likely to return at left-back, resulting in a probable role switch for Adam Parkhouse in Monday's match away to the Newcastle Jets.

The 24-year-old recovered enough from hamstring problems to return off the bench last week, playing half an hour without difficulty in the 2-2 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers.

Doyle acted as a lucky charm for the Phoenix, injected into the game with his team 2-0 down before two late goals forced the stalemate and kept the Kiwi outfit in eighth place.

Highly regarded by interim co-coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham, Doyle's likely return could have the desired result for Australian Parkhouse, a former striker who is keen to play further up the field.

"It might free Adam Parkhouse up, which will be a relief to him, although he's done a really good job in that left back position," Buckingham said.

The only first-choice player still unavailable with injury is All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey, whose return from a knee problem is scheduled for mid-January.

Freshly-signed striker Shane Smeltz will complete his Phoenix return against Perth on January 5, when the transfer window opens.

Newcastle have climbed to fifth following successive wins over Perth and Adelaide.

Greenacre believes they are more formidable than when a Roy Krishna double helped the Phoenix win the corresponding clash in Wellington seven weeks ago.

The return to fitness of central defenders Nigel Boogard and Daniel Mullen make the Jets a tough nut to crack, Greenacre says, while the speed of young winger Andrew Nabbout must be closely monitored.

The match could be the last in charge for Greenacre and Buckingham, with a full-time replacement for Ernie Merrick quite possibly unveiled before New Year's Eve.

The Phoenix players will spend Christmas morning with their families before crossing the Tasman.

"We don't have Christmas. That's pretty much been the story for the last 20 years of my career," Greenacre said.

"We get enough off time off at the end of the season to celebrate and do all that shenanigans."

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