Le Fondre wary of Wellington

A-League top scorer Adam le Fondre feels Sydney FC are still in the race for the A-League premiership, ahead of their clash with a Wellington side he rates highly.

The Sky Blues know they are running out of time to make up ground on top two sides Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory.

Their chances of securing the Premiers' Plate for a third consecutive season have taken a big hit over the past two games when they have dropped points to the league's bottom two sides.

Steve Corica's side lost 2-1 to Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium, and needed to come from behind at home last weekend to earn a point in a 1-1 draw with Central Coast.

They'll certainly need to raise their game against the Phoenix, who beat them 3-1 in Sydney earlier in the season.

The head-to-head record is split this season, with the Sky Blues having won 1-0 in the Kiwi capital last month.

"If you're not on your game, they'll punish you," Le Fondre said of Mark Rudan's side. "We've seen that at Kogarah we weren't quite at it and missed a couple of chances early on, they took their chances and it was game over really and we were fighting an uphill battle."

The former Reading striker moved back to the top of the A-League's Golden Boot standings when he scored the equaliser against the Mariners.

However, the two points dropped means they are now 11 points behind Perth albeit with a game in hand.

Both of their remaining meetings with the top two are at home, and le Fondre said of their position: "I don't think we're going to chuck the towel in and go 'here, you can have it'.

"There's no point in saying in eight games time we'll have won all eight – let's just go next game, take care of that and move onto the next game and the next game, build some momentum and assault Perth; that's all you can do."

The Sky Blues are 1/1 to win their game against the Phoenix, who are 5/2, with the draw 13/5.

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Phoenix exercise Taylor option

Former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor will be staying with Wellington Phoenix for at least another season.

The A-League side have exercised their option on his contract, with Taylor having been one of their best players this term.

The 33-year-old has started in all but one of the Phoenix's 19 matches, his only absence coming when he was ruled out by illness for the 3-0 defeat to Perth Glory earlier this month.

Taylor's now hoping coach Mark Rudan will stay in charge beyond the end of this season as he cited Rudan as a major factor in his decision to stay.

Rudan has been heavily linked with a move to Melbourne expansion club Western United for their inaugural season in 2019/20.

Saying he felt at home in Wellington and was happy with his form, Taylor added: "Mark Rudan was a big reason behind my extension and the belief he has shown in me has been fantastic.

"Speaking to him about what his ambitions were when I first signed here was the main reason why I came and obviously now with how well the team is doing and what the plans are for the future for this football club, it's in good hands."

Rudan said of the experienced central defender: "He has been a prominent figure this year alongside Andrew Durante and I am extremely pleased that he has signed for another year.

"It just shows we're not only building towards finals this year but we are building for next year as well."

The Phoenix are 5/2 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 1/1, with the draw 13/5.

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Rudan hails ‘fantastic’ Cacace

Coach Mark Rudan singled out youngster Liberato Cacace for praise after Wellington Phoenix's 1-1 home draw with defending champions Melbourne Victory.

The wingback has only missed two of the Phoenix's 19 games this season, after signing his first professional contract last May.

He's showing no signs of fatigue, despite stepping up to senior level at the age of 20, and was Wellington's best player against Victory at Eden Park.

"He was superb tonight, he was, and he's one I'm extremely proud of as well," said Rudan, who was hired as coach two weeks after Cacace was signed to a two-year deal. "He's a fantastic kid, he really is; we gave him enough time in pre-season to make sure.

"His parents should be awfully proud and today he stood up. I challenged the players – in an arena like this, in front of a big crowd, good players stand up and they create moments – he created a lot of moments tonight."

Rudan felt his team weren't at their best against Victory, when they were pegged back by Keisuke Honda's penalty after Roy Krishna had opened the scoring.

It's now just one win in six for the Phoenix, whose advantage over seventh-placed Newcastle has been reduced to six points with eight rounds remaining.

"It wasn't one of our better performances," said Rudan. "We know it's the final stretch, and we're asking for a little bit more from our players and that's the challenge for them, but I'm sure we'll find the right ingredients so that next week in Sydney we're better than we were tonight."

Wellington Phoenix are 13/5 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 10/11 with the draw 11/4.

The Phoenix are 12/1 to win 1-0.

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Muscat hails ‘outstanding’ Kamsoba

Coach Kevin Muscat praised youngster Elvis Kamsoba after Melbourne Victory came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Wellington Phoenix.

The defending champions fell behind to Roy Krishna's 12th goal of the season, with Japanese marquee Keisuke Honda netting the equaliser from the penalty spot.

Victory's chances of catching Perth Glory in the battle for the Premiers' Plate took a hit when the Phoenix held them for the third time this season.

Kamsoba, who was a part-timer in the NPL before joining Muscat's side last month, was impressive at Eden Park.

The coach said he was hugely impressed with the way the 22-year-old had made the adjustment from the NPL.

"He did surprise the entire staff with his actual conditioning, his stamina," said Muscat.

"We've had players previously come out of the NPL, we've done it frequently, and normally it takes them a good six months to get up to speed in terms of conditioning, what's required.

"Within a month, six weeks, we thought heis progress has been that rapid; he'll keep working and he'll become a bigger threat.

"He was outstanding – I think everybody here appreciated he was the most exciting player on the pitch."

Victory were pleased with their display, particularly with seven players unavailable for the game including Corey Brown who fell sick overnight.

Anthony Lesiotis came in for his first start, Raul Baena was able to get through a full 90 minutes and both Honda and Georg Niedermeier got through some game time following their injuries.

Swedish striker Ola Toivonen, who remained on the sidelines with a thigh injury, could return for next weekend's derby against Melbourne City.

Melbourne Victory are 21/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 12/5 with the draw 5/2.

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Phoenix and Victory share spoils again

Roy Krishna is joint-top of the A-League scoring chart after netting in Wellington Phoenix's 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory in Auckland.

The Fijian striker joined Sydney FC's Adam le Fondre on 12 goals for the season as he fired Mark Rudan's side ahead.

But it wasn't enough to topple the defending champions at Eden Park, as Victory secured a point thanks to Keisuke Honda's penalty.

It was the third consecutive draw between the teams this season, and left the Phoenix equal on points with fifth-placed Melbourne City, while Kevin Muscat's side remain six points off league leaders Perth Glory.

The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, but Wellington keeper Filip Kurto did well to deny Kenny Athiu.

The Phoenix wasted their best chance of the opening half when David Williams screwed his shot wide from a Louis Fenton cutback.

Sarpreet Singh, who had been their most creative player in the first half, played a key role in the home side's goal.

He twisted clear before firing in an angled cross that Storm Roux failed to deal with and Krishna powered past keeper Lawrence Thomas.

Minutes later he had a good chance to double the Phoenix's lead from a counter attack, but Thomas made a good save at full stretch.

Victory levelled on 68 minutes when Leigh Broxham went down in the area as Fenton and Krishna sought to block his run.

Honda, who had come on earlier in the second half, beat Kurto with his spot-kick for his fifth goal of the campaign.

Singh said after the game: "I still think we can get a lot better. We showed in patches what we're capable of and it's just about doing that for longer periods."

Wellington Phoenix are 13/5 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 10/11 with the draw 11/4.

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New Phoenix formation suits skipper

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is enjoying playing in a new system in what's set to be his final season in the A-League.

The 36-year-old has already changed his mind once about retirement – he made the call at the start of last year before agreeing a new deal – and at this stage he's not ruling out playing on in 2019/20.

But whether or not it turns out to be his final season, he's glad he opted to keep playing as he is revelling in being part of a central defensive trio.

The Phoenix are having a good season under Mark Rudan, a Finals Series spot well within their grasp.

They are sixth in the table, eight points clear of seventh-placed Newcastle with nine games left.

Durante has been with Wellington since 2008 and is the A-League's all-time record holder in appearances with 295.

He's had six different coaches at the club, and says he's enjoying how Rudan has the team playing.

Speaking of the three centre-backs formation, the former New Zealand international said: "I know it really well from playing with the All Whites and at some previous clubs; it suits me to a tee.

"It's a position where you need really good organisation skills and reading of the game and it is something I believe I possess. [I'm] enjoying the season, enjoying my own form at the moment."

Durante said he hadn't yet made a firm decision about whether to extend his career beyond the end of this season.

"If this is to be my last season, this is the way I want it to be, enjoying it, the team doing well, [the] supporters and fans being really positive. If it is my last season, then I will go out really happy," he added.

Wellington Phoenix are 20/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 21/10 to win their next game against Melbourne Victory, who are 11/10 with the draw 11/4.

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A-League rivals chasing Krishna

Roy Krishna has turned down the chance to carry on as Wellington Phoenix's penalty taker, but the club are hoping he won't be waving goodbye at the end of the season.

The Fiji international's manager has received offers from several rival A-League clubs, and Wellington stand to lose him.

The Phoenix have said they won't comment on contract negotiations, but they know they face a battle to retain the 31-year-old with Newcastle Jets and Central Coast both keen to recruit him when he comes off-contract at the end of this season.

Sydney FC are another club believed to have shown interest in signing Krishna, who has scored 11 goals in 18 games this season.

The player's manager Rex Dawkins said he'd fielded interest from several A-League clubs but nothing further afield.
"Everything with the Phoenix was put on hold while they were overseas but we've been talking to the Phoenix as well of course," he added.

"We're not going to be in any rush to make a decision because this is probably the last major contract that Roy will get while he's at the peak of his form so we want to make sure it's the right decision in terms of where he goes and what have you."

Phoenix coach Mark Rudan said Krishna had relinquished his role as the club's designated penalty-taker after the 1-1 draw with Newcastle Jets last week.

It was his second consecutive failure from the spot and he had converted only seven of his 14 attempts during his A-League career.

Rudan had consoled the striker after the game, but that Krishna had said to him: "No boss, I'm passing the responsibility on to someone else now".

The Phoenix, who are sixth, host second-placed Melbourne Victory in Auckland on Friday.

Wellington are 20/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 21/10 to win their next game against Melbourne Victory, who are 11/10 with the draw 11/4.

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Rudan hails ‘huge result’ for Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix head coach Mark Rudan feels the point his side earned at Newcastle Jets could be crucial to their chances of making the A-League Finals Series.

The New Zealand side were held 1-1 at McDonald Jones Stadium, where their former keeper Glen Moss saved Roy Krishna's late penalty.

Victory would have taken the Phoenix 11 points clear of the seventh-placed Jets, with nine rounds to go, but the gap may well be enough as it stands, Rudan feels, particularly with Newcastle having to contend with an Asian Champions League campaign at the same time as the A-League run-in.

Ernie Merrick's side, who were runners-up in the league last season, potentially have two ACL play-offs and then four more group games to play alongside their domestic fixtures.

"It's a big gap, eight points," said Rudan, who is in his first season as Wellington coach. "Knowing that they are in the ACL now as well, it was important.

"We obviously wanted to win the game and could have done so easily, but from a mentality point of view that's a huge result as far as we're concerned, because eight points is a lot of points to catch up there."

Wellington and the Jets both have five home games left out of their nine matches, but the Phoenix look to have the better run-in as two of their away matches are against the bottom two sides Central Coast and Brisbane Roar.

Merrick commented after the game that the dressing room had been "like a morgue", with players feeling they had dropped two points after taking the lead through Ronald Vargas.

"Now to finish in the top six and qualify for the group stage, which is the challenge we've set ourselves, it's going to be very tough physically on the boys, but they are very resilient," added Merrick.

The Phoenix are 9/4 to win their next game against Melbourne Victory, who are 21/20, with the draw 11/4.

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Moss heroics earn point for Jets

Newcastle Jets keeper Glen Moss pulled off a late penalty save to earn his side a point from their 1-1 draw at home to Wellington Phoenix.

The former Phoenix keeper blocked Roy Krishna's 88th-minute spot-kick with his legs at McDonald Jones Stadium and secured a share of the spoils which preserved the Jets' hopes of making the A-League Finals Series.

Ernie Merrick's side still have an eight-point gap to make up on Wellington and Melbourne City, who occupy the final two spots in the top six.

The match was a cracker, with both sides being denied by the woodwork several times and Moss and his opposite number Oliver Sail producing some excellent saves.

The post denied returning Phoenix midfielder Mandi early on, and when the rebound came to Louis Fenton he couldn't keep his shot down.

Moss did superbly to tip a David Williams header on to the post as the visitors continued to threaten, but it was Newcastle who grabbed the first goal.

Ronald Vargas took a pass from Daniel Georgievski and showed trickery to make space for a shot which he lashed past Sail, who had come into the side for Filip Kurton just before the game.

Vargas should have doubled the Jets' lead early in the second half but headed wide from Dimitri Petratos' excellent cross.

And the home side were made to pay soon afterwards as Williams guided Fenton's pass into the corner of the net.

Newcastle sought to hit back, but Roy O'Donovan side-footed against the post and Georgievski saw his header rebound off the crossbar.

Ben Kantarovski's trip on Fenton afforded Krishna the chance to send Mark Rudan's men 11 points clear, but he put his penalty straight down the middle and Moss was able to make the save.

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Trio available again for Jets trip

Wellington Phoenix should get three players back for Thursday's crucial game against Newcastle Jets.

The Phoenix were without experienced defenders Andrew Durante (suspension) and Steven Taylor (illness) when they went down 3-0 away to Perth Glory at the weekend.

Coach Mark Rudan also lost Spanish midfielder Mandi for the HBF Stadium clash, as his wife was due to give birth.

The weakened Phoenix lost to the A-League leaders after David Williams hit the bar with a chance inside the opening 90 seconds.

They'll have a stronger defence available to take on the Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium, in a match that will have plenty riding on it.

Wellington, who occupy the last Finals Series place, have an eight-point advantage over Ernie Merrick's seventh-placed side.

Coach Mark Rudan, who has seen the Phoenix pick up only four points from their last four games, feels they can bounce back against Newcastle.

"We're still learning, we're still progressing as a football club; we've come on in leaps and bounds this season," he said.

"We have to improve, we all have to learn from those types of scenarios and situations that occur in a game and we have to ensure that it doesn't happen again; that's what good teams do, and what good players do."

Rudan admitted Perth had dominated the first half, scoring through headers from Shane Lowry and Chris Ikonomidis.

Speaking of the leaders, he added: "They're a good side and fully deserved to win – I've got nothing but praise for them. I think they are the best team in the competition and they are where they are for a reason."

Wellington are 16/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 3/1 to win their next game against Newcastle, who are 5/6 with the draw 11/4.

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