ALM Match Preview: RZ focusing on improvement, not the table

Head Coach Ruben Zadkovich remains focused upon continual improvement rather than the league table ahead of Saturday’s Distance Derby clash with Wellington Phoenix in Palmerston North (kick-off at 10am WST).

View his full pre-match media conference HERE.

Victory at Central Energy Trust Arena could lift Glory into the top six following their recent run of fine results at home which has included wins over Western Sydney Wanderers, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory.

But for the Head Coach, table position plays second fiddle to ensuring that performance levels maintain their upward trajectory.

“We’re not focusing so much on the ladder as we are on ourselves and how we can improve as a team in all the different moments and phases of play,” he said.

“In the last little period there, we strung together some good performances in patches and had longer periods of sustained structured football where people knew their role and there was clarity and success in that through the transitions.

“That’s a good sign of the group growing and I want to make it clear that in-house, we’re just focusing on improving.

“I feel like we have a lot of improvement in us and I feel like we need to improve a lot if we want to be a top team and a team in the top-half of the ladder.

“You can see there’s real belief in that dressing room and they’ve got faith and belief in each other and what we’re doing and that gives us a good environment which sustains the process.”

Following one of the most arduous domestic league trips in world football, Glory will face a Phoenix side which has lost just once in its last seven outings and Zadkovich is certainly expecting a tough test.

“I think [Wellington Phoenix Head Coach] Ufuk Talay is a fantastic coach,” he said.

“He’s someone I know from my playing days at Sydney FC.

“He has a very good football brain and he has a very organised and structured team with some very dangerous players.

“So I’ve got a lot of respect for what Wellington are doing and the way they’re playing.

“They’re probably the form team in the competition at the moment… but I also note that they’ve only won three out of eight at home, so there’s opportunity there.

“It’s [the trip] another challenge for us as a group and a club to embrace and rise to.

“I’m pretty disappointed with the fixture and where it’s been pegged to play… I think it’s quite poor from a scheduling point of view and whoever made that decision.

“But the decision is made, it’s an uncontrollable and I’m always very positive and optimistic.

“I won’t change my ways and I’ll be imparting that on the boys.”

In terms of early team news, the Head Coach confirmed that Adam Taggart is a doubt for the game, Salim Khelifi will join the suspended Jack Clisby on the sidelines, but new signing Jordan Elsey could make his club debut.

“He [Taggart] had a slight strain which we were trying to manage before that game [v Melbourne Victory],” he said.

“It’s flared up a little bit; it’s not too bad, but it’s something we just need to manage.

“We’ll look to push him in training tomorrow and see how he goes, but we’ll take the long-term view that if it’s no good, he won’t travel.

“The nice thing is that we were in strong form before we got Taggs on the pitch.

“While you can see how much he helps and how much of a high-class, quality striker he is and why he’s important to the way we play, we’ll continue to grow and develop with or without him on the pitch and we want to make it a collective.

“Salim’s injury is being looked at and at this stage it’s looking like a serious injury.

“It’s a foot injury and he’s getting some scans and those will be looked at by the specialists.

“Jordan is fit enough and strong enough and ready to play.

“Now it’s just about him settling into our processes, which I’m sure are very different and our structures and understanding with teammates.

“He’s a great personality and a really good leader, so I think that transition will be smooth for him.”

The two sides shared the spoils when they met a little over a month ago, with David Williams and Oskar Zawada exchanging first-half goals at Macedonia Park.

Following that draw, Phoenix lost to Melbourne City and then enjoyed consecutive wins against Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners.

Among the Kiwi side’s most notable performers have been goalkeeper Oli Sail who has made 42 saves and kept two clean sheets, Polish strike Zawada who has scored six goals in 12 starts and midfielder Clayton Lewis who has contributed two assists and one goal.

Glory will be seeking a first win on Kiwi soil since October 2019.

Match Details

ISUZU UTE A-League 2022/23 Season Round 14

Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory

Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North

Saturday 28 January 2023

Kick-off: 10.00am WST

Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 35. Noah KARUNARATNE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).

Ins: 35. Noah KARUNARATNE (promoted).

Outs: 23. Clayton LEWIS (injured). Unavailable: 4. Scott WOOTTON (injured), 23. Clayton LEWIS (injured).

Perth Glory squad: 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 2.John KOUTROUMBIS, 3.Jacob DOWSE, 4.Luke BODNAR, 5.Mark BEEVERS, 7.Ryan WILLIAMS, 8.Mustafa AMINI (c), 12.Luke IVANOVIC, 13.Cameron COOK (gk), 15.Jordan ELSEY, 16.Keegan JELACIC, 18.David WILLIAMS, 19.Zach DUNCAN, 20.Giordano COLLI, 21.Antonee BURKE-GILROY, 23.Mitch OXBORROW, 28.Trent OSTLER, 29.Darryl LACHMAN, 37.Jacob MUIR, 43.Adam ZIMARINO

Ins: 12.Luke IVANOVIC, 15.Jordan ELSEY, 20.Giordano COLLI, 23.Mitch OXBORROW, 28.Trent OSTLER

Outs: 10.Salim KHELIFI, 14.Jack CLISBY, 22.Adam TAGGART

Unavailable: 1.Brad JONES (gk) (injured), 10.Salim KHELIFI (injured), 14.Jack CLISBY (suspended), 22.Adam TAGGART (injured), 24.Adrian SARDINERO (injured)