Football: Wellington Phoenix dealt Clayton Lewis injury blow in midst of crucial A-League winning streak

Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay has confirmed midfielder Clayton Lewis sustained a fractured kneecap in his side's 2-1 victory over Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

There is no confirmed timeframe for the 25-year-old's return, however, Talay says his midfield general will miss at least eight weeks. 

"We'll see how that fracture heals, it could be eight weeks, ten weeks, 12 weeks," he said. 

Clayton Lewis.
Clayton Lewis. Photo credit: Getty Images

Lewis sustained the injury in the 23rd minute of the first half, when opposition winger Béni Nkololo landed heavily on Lewis' left knee at an awkward angle. 

Lewis lay on the ground for almost five minutes while he was attended to by medical staff, before finally helping himself to his feet.  

Incredibly, the New Zealand international managed to play the rest of the first half before eventually succumbing to the pain in the 51st minute. Scans confirmed a fractured patella a few days later.

"What we need to focus on now is him healing and doing his rehab and getting himself back on the park," continued Talay.

The timing couldn't be any worse for Lewis, who has been in fantastic form during the final year of his contract with the Phoenix. 

Starting 12 out of a possible 13 matches, Lewis has been the Nix's go-to playmaker this season, all while scoring a goal of the season contender off a free kick against Macarthur FC in round five. 

Lewis has also been influential during the side's current three-game winning streak, which has seen the side shoot up to fourth on the A-League table at the halfway point of the season. 

Talay says Lewis will be greatly missed during his time on the sideline. 

"Disappointed for Clay [Lewis] - to be honest I'm gutted for him. 

"I thought he was getting into some good form, and he had created that partnership with Alex [Rufer] again in midfield so it's a disappointing time for us as a team for Clay to be injured."

Lewis' most likely replacement on the pitch is Croatian-Australian Steven Ugarkovic, who is playing in his first campaign for Wellington. 

Ugarkovic has played over 170 A-League games during his career and has already become a fan favorite thanks to some great play throughout the season.

Another option is feisty 24-year-old Nicholas Pennington. The Italian-born midfielder has often  impressed his coach with his creativity in limited minutes over the last two seasons.

Talay welcomes the competition between the two teammates, saying that both players are capable of stepping in and filling the void.

"In these circumstances when things happen, opportunities arise for other players and now it's up to Stevie and Nico to come in and do a job."

Just who Talay trusts to step in and do that job will become clear on Saturday when Wellington take on Perth Glory in Palmerston North.