Andrew Durante believes the team are now performing much better away from home.
Andrew Durante believes the team are now performing much better away from home. Mark Mitchell

Phoenix face re-shuffled Reds

THE Wellington Phoenix will face the new guard when they run out to play Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium tonight.

While John Kosmina has had the coaching reins for only a few days, the captain's armband has also changed hands with former Phoenix defender Jon McKain relieved of those duties.

Long-serving goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic has taken over as club captain after McKain had been handed that responsibility by former coach Rini Coolen who was sacked a couple of weeks ago.

Like many of his team-mates, McKain's confidence has waned on the back of a run of poor results which now sees the Reds at the bottom of the Hyundai A-League table.

New boss Kosmina had mentioned that he might consider taking the captaincy from McKain in an attempt to help him regain the form that saw him break into the national team.

"I'll have a chat with Jon and see how he feels with things," said Kosmina.

"He's admitted himself he's not playing well. If it's a burden [the captaincy] we'll discuss it.

Twice voted A-League goalkeeper of the year, Galekovic has remained a rock at the back during Adelaide's struggles and the widely respected 30-year-old represents a safe pair of hands for Kosmina as he attempts to get the South Australians' season back on track.

For Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert and his captain, Andrew Durante, tonight's game presents a different conundrum.

They are in Adelaide fully aware that despite the respective positions on the points table - fifth plays 10th - the Phoenix are underdogs. That is reflected in the match odds based, no doubt, on the Phoenix' appalling record on Australian soil. They have yet to win away from home this season although they did play out a 1-1 draw with Adelaide at Eden Park six weeks ago.

For Durante tonight's game is simply a case of taking it one game at a time.

Despite being in the middle of a hectic schedule of nine games in six weeks, the Phoenix are going along nicely with three wins from their last four games, but Durante is not getting carried away.

"We are on a bit of a roll but you can't look too far ahead," Durante said. "It is a fact that we haven't had much joy at Hindmarsh in the past, but on the up side we are playing much better away from home than in previous seasons.

"The history of the club shows we haven't performed well away and there have been some poor performances in the past, but that isn't the case anymore.

"We've started games well and put teams on the back foot. It hasn't translated into points so far but I think we should have been five or six [points] better off from away matches on our performances."

Considering the pre-season upheaval and the horrendous run of injuries in the opening rounds, the Phoenix have surprised many with their results and performances.

"We are tipped to come last at the best of times," Durante said with a wry smile, "but we have proved a lot of people wrong in the past and are doing so again.

"Every club is liable to go through periods when injuries pile up and hopefully we've had ours."

The Phoenix have been boosted with the news All Whites defender Tony Lochhead has recovered from the groin injury sustained against Perth which will allow Manny Muscat to revert to right back and Vince Lia to move back into midfield.

Elsewhere, Herbert is likely to stay with the players who were on hand for last Friday's 5-2 home win over Newcastle Jets.

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