Mariners, Phoenix hit by international call-ups
FOOTBALL: It's hardly a blockbuster, but the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix will at least head into tomorrow's A-League clash on the back of wins.
Both strugglers broke their duck last weekend, the Mariners against reigning champion Adelaide United (2-1), and the Phoenix at the expense of the Newcastle Jets (2-0).
With hosting duties at GIO Stadium in Canberra, and having won two of its three encounters last season against Wellington and drawn the other, Central Coast must start favourite.
The side is starting to click under new coach Paul Okon, with defender Scott Galloway proving a valuable signing, and midfielder Mickael Tavares having the best passing accuracy of any player in the competition.
Irish striker Roy O'Donovan leads the Mariners' goalscoring chart with three and while he remains the main threat up front, Connor Pain is playing an important role in support, setting up O'Donovan's equaliser against the Reds last week and then scoring a spectacular winner.
While their confidence will be up, the visiting Phoenix will be without the services of Kosta Barbarouses and Michael McGlinchey, among others, due to international duty, putting a lot of the attacking pressure on Gui Finkler and Roy Krishna.
Fleet-footed Fijian Krishna does enjoy the responsibility. He netted both the goals in the win over the Jets, and so remains the only Wellington player to have gotten on the scoresheet so far in 2016-17.
But Andrew Durante, Louis Fenton and keeper Glen Moss are also away with the All Whites, leaving holes in the Phoenix line-up.
One will be filled by Lewis Italiano, who will make his first appearance in 566 days in goal for the Phoenix.
The 25-year-old was coach Ernie Merrick's first signing in June 2013 and was forced to wait 677 days to make his debut when Moss was injured.
With Moss back in favour of All Whites coach Anthony Hudson for the country's World Cup qualifier with New Caledonia in Albany today, back-up Italiano is finally recalled.
And he may have a busy afternoon.