Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay believes victories in his side’s last two A-league games will earn them a finals spot, while Western Sydney counterpart Carl Robinson concedes that missing out on the finals will represent failure for his club.
Following Wednesday’s 2-1 away win over Western Sydney, Wellington are two points behind fifth and sixth-placed Central Coast and Macarthur, who play their game in hand against each other at Campbelltown Stadium on Thursday.
Wanderers dropped to ninth place, five points off sixth, with coach Carl Robinson bemoaning his team’s defensive inadequacies and the lack of consistency of his more senior players.
Forced to play in Australia for most of the season due to the COVID pandemic, Phoenix drew in excess of 24,000 for their first match of the campaign in Wellington last weekend and are hopeful of an even bigger crowd for Sunday’s home clash with Perth Glory in Auckland.
“Last season, we played up in Eden Park and we didn’t lose so hopefully that continues on the weekend,” Talay said.
“Whatever happens with the result tomorrow, we’re in control of our own destiny.
“We’ve got two important games that we need to win and I believe that if we do win the next two games we should be in the top-six, so there’s something to play for.”
Phoenix have enjoyed a remarkable late-season resurgence, keeping themselves in finals contention with a nine-game unbeaten run.
“I think having a bit of consistency within the squad has helped us,” Talay said.
“We’ve had a lot of very niggly injuries at the start of the season where we weren’t able to be consistent with our starting XI.
“Consistency brings results and also wining brings confidence as well.”
He expects their talismanic Mexican import Ulises Davila to return from injury and play a few minutes on the weekend.
The only negative out of Wednesday’s game was an injury to their Olyroos playmaker Reno Piscopo.
X-rays will determine the extent of an injury to either his shoulder or collarbone, with Talay hopeful Piscopo will be available for Phoenix this weekend and fit to press his Olympic selection claims.
Robinson watched his team’s shambolic defending of set pieces give up two more goals on Wednesday and leave his side with only a small mathematical prospect of making the finals for the first time in four seasons.
“We’ve defended like that all season to be honest, which is why we are in the position we are in,” Robinson said.
“There are a lot of things that I’m very happy with that have progressed this year, like the development of the young players.
“But if I’m sitting here saying that I’m not disappointed and I don’t think the group and me have failed, then I’m telling you a lie because our expectations were to get in the finals.
“Young players go up and down, it’s the senior players that you want to be most consistent and unfortunately we’ve not had enough of them.”