WELLINGTON: Bottom-of-the-table Wellington Phoenix can still make the A-League play-offs, captain Andrew Durante believes, but they have to start on Sunday with a win over Newcastle at Westpac Stadium.
After four losses on the trot, the latest a 7-1 shellacking from Sydney FC, the Phoenix desperately need to win. They are struggling for consistency as they try to embed a new, possession-based attacking style, and have been missing key players to injury and suspension.
Durante is unequivocal in talking up the Phoenix's play-off chances.
''It's a competition where you get a couple of wins in a row and you're back up there,'' he said. ''We're four points out of the top six, as bad as we've been this year. We definitely believe we can be there, but we really need to start putting in performances sooner rather than later.''
Coach Ricki Herbert was also upbeat. ''We're not letting go. We're absolutely determined to make the play-offs,'' he said.
''We can dig deep and really get something out of this year - we're positive enough to think that.''
There have been a couple of pluses this week for the Phoenix, including the signing of attacking midfielder Isaka Cernak, who Herbert says is a good chance for a start.
Gritty midfielder Manny Muscat returns from a three-match ban for twice elbowing Nick Fitzgerald during the Phoenix's 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar on January 1, compensating for the absence of Vince Lia, out for one match after receiving his fifth yellow card last week.
Striker Paul Ifill, last week who played 30 minutes a month after ankle surgery, is sure of more game time as the Phoenix look to better a scoring tally that stands at just two in more than six hours of football.
The Jets are sixth on the table, coming off a scoreless draw last week with Central Coast Mariners.
Goalkeeper Ben Kennedy is resting a knee injury, with youngster Jack Duncan taking over, while coach Gary van Egmond looks set to start midfielder Zenon Caravella.
Van Egmond says even a struggling Phoenix will provide a challenge in front of their home crowd. ''The statistics don't lie. We've got a terrible track record over there,'' he said.