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Phoenix look to weather perfect storm

17:29 Mon Jan 14 2013

A change in game plan coupled with a shift in personnel has created a perfect storm for the Wellington Phoenix, tumbling them down the A-League ladder to sit stone-cold last.

Sunday's 2-0 defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers was their third consecutive loss and leaves the Phoenix with just four wins from 16 starts this season. They are 10th on the table, although only four points separate them from fifth-placed Newcastle Jets.

Captain Andrew Durante says it's difficult to isolate exactly where things are going wrong, as the club and coach Ricki Herbert work to embed a more attractive brand of attacking football.

Particularly in their last two games, the Phoenix have looked impressive in moving the ball around well in the first half but have then fallen off badly.

"We're working hard at training, we're implementing all the things Ricki wants. But for whatever reason on match day, second halves and silly mistakes have been the story of our season," Durante said.

He says the mid-season change in style has been challenging.

"Maybe the change in formation is taking time, people aren't maybe sure of what they've got to do.

"I think before this whole formation thing and new style of football, we were travelling OK. This bombshell's maybe rattled a few people.

"But for the future of the football club, this is the way it's got to be. We just have to grin and bear it, and get on with it."

Adding to the Phoenix's immediate woes is the absence of injured playmaker Paul Ifill, and defender Manny Muscat, who has missed the last two games through suspension and has one more game to sit out.

Ifill gets the chance to stretch his legs on Wednesday for the Phoenix's reserve side against Manawatu in Palmerston North, but isn't expected to be back in the A-League for another couple of weeks.

Teenage strikers Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd have made a big step up this season, but there's no doubt Wellington are missing players like Ifill, Muscat and long-serving players Chris Greenacre and Tim Brown, who have retired.

"Those guys were experienced pros, and when they had to step up, we could rely on them," Durante said.

"I think that's where we're struggling to be honest. We look around, and there's a whole young team around us.

"It's great for the future of the club, but it'll take time for us to gel properly."