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High-flying Phoenix target Jets

By FRED WOODCOCK - The Dominion Post

Brazilian playmaker Felipe will be unleashed in a starting role for the first time as Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert looks to fine-tune ahead of the A-League season-opener in two weeks.

Wellington play their final Pre-Season Cup match tonight, against the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium, in a playoff for fifth spot.

But more importantly, it's one final chance to tinker with the starting lineup ahead of their much-anticipated debut match against Melbourne Victory on August 26.

So Herbert has given Felipe a starting role in behind the two strikers, Shane Smeltz and Royce Brownlie, who also gets his second start in a Phoenix shirt after some impressive performances off the bench.

Former Victory flankman Vince Lia will start at right back, while midfielder Michael Ferrante, who has accrued two yellow cards during the past three weeks, will sit out the match to avoid the risk of suspension from the Melbourne match, and striker Vaughan Coveny also gets a rest on the bench.

Coveny, who will be champing at the bit to make an appearance against his former teammates, was enthused about the prospect of Brazilians Daniel and Felipe both starting in attacking roles and believed they could make an impact on the A-League.

Wellington-born Coveny, 35, said a good performance was important as they wanted to build Westpac Stadium into a fortress.

"It's going to be a long, hard season and with the trips away from home being our biggest obstacle. Hopefully, we can get some really good results at home.

"We started off slowly, but then came good and had a great result away last week and we really need these competitive games. But I think it (the two wins against Sydney and Melbourne) shows where we're at. We're going to be competitive and I think we're going to surprise a few teams."

He admitted expectations would be raised given their encouraging cup results during the past month, and their encouraging press on both sides of the Tasman.

"We want to set high standards, we're not shying away from that situation, and we've got to produce," he said.

Herbert is expecting an entertaining match, with Newcastle a typically attack-minded team and Wellington showing early signs of adopting a similar philosophy.

"I think they'll get at us, but for us again it's another 90 minutes under the belt," he said, before emphasising the importance of individual performances tonight.

"In a couple of weeks we're going to be kicking the season off, so selections are important now. As the squad grows and everybody is back on deck, it's going to be bloody hard to select a team."


Wellington Phoenix: Mark Paston, Jeremy Christie, Tony Lochhead, Karl Dodd, Ross Aloisi (captain), Vaughan Coveny, Shane Smeltz, Daniel, Richard Johnson, Steven O'Dor, George Paladini, Vince Lia, Glen Moss, Felipe Campos, Royce Brownlie.

Newcastle Jets: Ante Covic, Adam Griffiths, Stuart Musialik, Andrew Durante, Matt Thompson, Joel Griffiths, Tarek Elrich, Paul Kohler, Adam Dapuzzo, Jobe Wheelhouse, Scott Tunbridge, Troy Hearfield, Noel Spencer, Mark Bridge, Justin Pasfield.

Kickoff: 7.30pm today.

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