Suspended skipper Andrew Durante will have to sit in the stands when his Wellington Phoenix team takes on Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford today.
Not having Durante, who has been outstanding in the centre of defence for the Phoenix all season, is a big blow but the captain is confident his team mates can still get something from the game.
Brent Griffiths is likely to step into Durante’s spot alongside Ben Sigmund and has the backing of his skipper that he can do the job.
“Brent has bided his time and done well in the few opportunities he’s had.
“He’s a big strong lad and it will help that he is playing alongside Siggy who will keep him on track.
“He just has to keep it simple and pass the ball on to the midfield.”
The Phoenix have the toughest run in of all teams with another clash against the Mariners at Westpac Stadum to come, along with away games in Melbourne against Victory and Heart.
With that in mind Durante said it was crucial the Phoenix picked up points in Gosford and from the clash with Sydney FC next Saturday before returning home.
“We won four in a row to move up the ladder but such is the nature of the competition if you lose two in a row you are back in the pack,” he said.
“If we can get something today and have everyone back for Sydney we will be looking good.”
Mariners have been off the boil a little in recent weeks, losing two in succession, but coach Graham Arnold has strengthened his team with the addition of striker John Sutton who has been signed on loan from Scottish Premier League side Hearts.
Sutton, who missed last week’s loss to Melbourne Victory waiting for an international clearance, will start and Arnold is hoping he can fill the gap left by talisman striker Matt Simon who is now playing in Asia.
A likely Phoenix line up is Mark Paston, Vince Lia, Brent Griffiths, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Leo Bertos, Manny Muscat, Dani Sanchez, Alex Smith, Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre.