Canberra United head across the Tasman this weekend to face Wellington Phoenix in Round 14 of the Liberty A-League seeking a return to form, and a maiden success in New Zealand, as they aim to reignite their finals hopes.
The team in green endured a chastening experience on their only other trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud, returning home with their tails between their legs having been handed a 0-5 hammering by a Phoenix side that found their straps at exactly the right time on a torrid afternoon.
Indeed, United haven’t enjoyed the best of memories when they’ve met the team clad in yellow and black, a 0-3 home loss at Viking Park in February 2022 handing Wellington their first-ever Liberty A-League win, followed by that imminently forgettable encounter in January 2023.
In between times there was better news from a comfortable 3-0 win at McKellar Park just before Christmas 2022. With a bit more luck and some more accurate finishing, Canberra could have racked up a landslide victory, but the 1,430 in attendance had to settle for a trio of goals, two scored inside the opening forty-five minutes, from Grace Maher and Michelle Heyman.
Heyman ended up with a brace on that occasion, a feat she repeated last week as United came unstruck in stoppage time when Emily Gielnik struck from long-range to break Canberra hearts and see Melbourne Victory head back home with all three points by the odd goal in five.
United currently sit six points behind the Phoenix, and eight off a place in the top six that would secure finals football. Scoring hasn’t been an issue, Canberra’s twenty-five successful strikes only bettered by League leaders Melbourne City who have managed to find the net thirty times this season.
Unfortunately, the twenty-eight conceded is only two less than league worst Adelaide United and finding the right combination on the defensive side of the game appears to be of paramount importance as fixtures start to run thin.
There’s no better time that this weekend for that to turn around, but United are under no illusions that the task ahead will be tough. The ambition and attitude remains positive however, and the team travel in good spirits.
Sunday 28 January
Wellington Phoenix v Canberra United
(Porirua Park, 15:00 AEDT)
Live on Paramount+ and 10Play