The Phoenix has re-signed American utility Alex Smith for the remainder of the season.
The Phoenix has re-signed American utility Alex Smith for the remainder of the season. Getty Images Sport - Hagen Hopkins

Phoenix look to take advantage

THE A-League results continue to fall in favour of the Wellington Phoenix. If only they could cash in on their good fortune by picking up more away points.

The Phoenix head into tonight's Hyundai League game against the Newcastle Jets at Ausgrid Stadium comfortably in fourth place and playing a team they have beaten twice this season - 2-0 and 5-2 at home.

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The Phoenix could have been joined on 24 points had Perth Glory done better than a 1-1 midweek draw with Sydney FC on the same day Melbourne Heart fell 1-0 at home to runaway leaders Central Coast Mariners.

A win for the Heart would have taken them four points clear of Ricki Herbert's Phoenix but now they could go into tomorrow's dangerous home game against the Brisbane Roar trailing the Phoenix if they get up tonight.

That will not be easy as the Jets have played better than their ninth place might suggest.

Only the top four teams have scored more goals than the Jets. With 18 points they are only a win away from perhaps climbing into the top six.

Consistency has been their problem and midfielder Ben Kantarovski feels now is the time for the Jets to find that if they are to become a genuine contender.

With only two losses at home in eight outings, the Jets have plenty in their favour. Couple that with the Phoenix's dismal away record and Jets coach Gary van Egmond has plenty to look forward to.

While the Jets' home ground is fast becoming a fortress, Kantarovski says the team are also buoyed by an impressive showing in their well-earned 1-1 draw against Central Coast last week.

"I think we can take some real confidence out of our home form.

"Plus with how we played last week away, we haven't had the best results away this season, so last week's draw was good for our confidence, too."

The Phoenix are unlikely to meddle with their line-up after the battling 1-0 win over Gold Coast.

Herbert will be expecting more from striker Paul Ifill now he has had his first full game since returning from injury. While they continue to perform reasonably on defence, well led by Ben Sigmund and skipper Andrew Durante - only the Mariners (with 11) have conceded fewer than the 20 goals let in by the Phoenix - they have to take more of the scoring chances they are creating.

Herbert has re-signed American utility Alex Smith for the remainder of the season. But the coach must get more from Ifill and Chris Greenacre if thePhoenix are to seriously contend in the remaining rounds.

The same could be said of Dani Sanchez and Daniel and Leo Bertos. While they show up at times in good attacking positions they are not turning that good work into goals, too often leaving it to others like Tim Brown and Sigmund to score at crucial times.

Without the all-too-regular transtasman crossing this week, the club will be as well prepared as possible for tonight's battle. There can be no excuses for not winning on the road again.



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