Football: Wellington Phoenix coach Paul Temple takes aim at Oceania Football after scheduling clash decimates squad

Phoenix's Annalie Longo in action.
Phoenix's Annalie Longo in action. Photo credit: Getty Images

Wellington Phoenix will have to field a severely depleted side for their next A-League women's clash against second-placed Western United.

The timing of the Football Ferns' Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament means Michaela Foster, Brianna Edwards, Annalie Longo, Kate Taylor, Macey Fraser and Mackenzie Barry likely can't make the trip to Melbourne for the match, scheduled for February 18.

On Wednesday, New Zealand will play the first match of the tournament against Tonga and are highly favoured to make the final on February 19, which would rule the Phoenix contingent out of contention.

While other clubs feeling the pinch of the Oceania Football Confederation's decision to stage the tournament outside the international window, the Phoenix are comfortably the worst affected, with more than half the starting side that took the field in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Newcastle Jets unavailable.

Coach Paul Temple puts the blame squarely on OFC's shoulders for the predicament faced by both his team and the wider league.

"It's not the players' fault, it's not New Zealand Football's fault and it's not our fault - it's OFC's fault," said Temple. "They put the tournament on a different date, so there's nothing we can really do about it."

The mass absence is far from ideal for Temple's squad. Currently placed ninth in the competition, they've lost five of their past six matches and suffered six straight losses away from home.

Temple is confident his reshuffled side can step up to fill the void.

Michaela Foster.
Michaela Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We've got a big squad and we had two players make their debut last weekend, so we're building underneath as well," he said. "It's now their opportunity, when the Ferns are away, to stand up.

"We're pretty confident we can do the work that’s needed, but it's going to look like a different team than what people see, for sure."

The A-League has mitigated the damage for the Phoenix somewhat, shifting their match against Adelaide United from this Sunday to March 20, leaving them without their NZ players for one match rather than two.

"Obviously, we would love to have those Football Ferns available for all the games, but they also want to go and help their country qualify, and they're looking to get into the squad for the Olympics this year," said Temple.