A-League: Wellington Phoenix target top-two finish after closing gap on Melbourne City

Wellington Phoenix have their sights set on a top-two A-League finish, after their crucial 2-1 win over Perth Glory on Wednesday. 

Goals from strikers Gary Hooper and Ulises Davila saw the Phoenix claim their first win since the resumption of the A-League, lifting Ufuk Talay's side to within one point of second-placed Melbourne City with a game in hand.

City don't play their next game until August 1, so a win or draw against Adelaide United on Saturday would see the Phoenix move into second with three games remaining before the playoffs. 

A top-two finish would give the Phoenix a first-round bye in the post-season, before hosting a 'home' semi-final. 

"Our focus from day one was to make the top six and I believe, with the points we have, we've secured a spot in the top six, so now we'll go back and we'll have a look at it, and we'll push as much as we can for that second spot," says Talay. 

Phoenix captain Steven Taylor echoes his coach's thoughts and is determined to prove doubters wrong, after Wellington were written off before the season started. 

"For us, it’s about the top six," he told Fox Sports. "We've said it all season.

"I think you guys [Fox Sports] had us down for the wooden spoon, so we’ve over-achieved there."

Ufuk Talay.
Ufuk Talay. Photo credit: Photosport

Taylor is right. In Fox Sports' season preview, five of the 10 'experts' polled had the Phoenix finishing last and it could've been more, with three not submitting answers. 

With 48 hours to prepare for their match against Adelaide, Talay has hinted at further squad rotation, before settling on a starting side before their playoff run. 

Talay made three changes to the side that lost 3-1 to Sydey FC last week, with Hooper and Callum McCowatt replacing Jaushua Sotirio and Ben Waine, while Cam Devlin returned from suspension for Alex Rufer.

The Phoenix will be without Matti Steinmann against Adelaide, after he picked up an eighth yellow card of the season.

"The important thing is we have players fit leading into the finals, so if they need to have a break against Adelaide, we'll give them a break, so they're ready for the next game, and make sure we have everybody available and don't break anyone leading into the finals series," says Talay.

"It's an opportunity for the players to showcase what they do and once we play Adelaide, we have a long turnaround, so spots will be available. 

"I'll be handing out the jerseys and it'll be upto them to keep them on their back." 

Join us for live updates of the Phoenix v Adelaide United A-League clash from 5pm Saturday 

A-League: Wellington Phoenix target top-two finish after closing gap on Melbourne City