Football: Wellington Phoenix insist race for silverware still on as they prepare for home clash with Melbourne Victory

The Wellington Phoenix are dusting off their heartbreaking loss to Central Coast Mariners which saw them drop out of first place on the A-League table for the first time since January.    

Wellington's hopes of claiming their first piece of silverware in the form of the 2023-24 Premiers Plate were dealt a blow when they lost 2-1 to Central Coast in round 23 due to a 91st-minute strike from Mikael Doka.     

However, with three games remaining and Wellington currently equal with Central Coast on points, midfielder Ben Old is confident the side can still finish on top.     

"We have to still remember that we are on the same points as first - even though they are above us so there is still a lot to play for," he said. "We've got a long way to go until the end of the season."    

Wellington host third-placed Melbourne Victory on Friday night in a match that now has added significance after their contrasting results in round 23.    

A win will guarantee the Phoenix their first top-two finishes and result in a first-round bye in the finals series, while Victory have a chance to close the gap with Wellington to 2 points.  

The Phoenix can also move three points ahead of Central Coast with a win before the defending champions next A-League match with Western United.     

"I think even if we had won against Central Coast, we still would have needed to win our final games," Old continued. "And because the competition is so high in this league... anyone can beat anyone - we know that if we can win these last three games, we can put ourselves in a great position."    

The midfielder, who is enjoying a breakout season with Wellington, also takes confidence from how the club has responded to their three other losses this season. 

 Ben Old celebrates a goal.
Ben Old celebrates a goal. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's hard coming off a loss but this team is very resilient, and we haven't lost two games in a row this year - and I think that is a credit to our resilience," he said, 

Defender Tim Payne, who returned off the bench from a hamstring injury in the loss, agrees the club isn't lacking confidence heading into the final rounds.     

"We're still in a great position," Payne said.     

"To lose in the final minute is never enjoyable but the beauty of football is we've got another three games - another game this weekend, another big test against Victory - so we're buzzing for that."    

After playing Victory, the Phoenix will travel across the ditch to play Newcastle Jets, who currently sit 10th, before rounding out the regular season against fifth-placed Macarthur Bulls at home in Wellington.