Adelaide Out To Stop Phoenix Rising

Above: Isabel Hodgson pictured during the press conference ahead of Friday night’s game against Wellington Phoenix. Photo provided to Impetus by: Adelaide United.

Round Eight of the A-League Women season gets underway tomorrow night with Adelaide United hosting Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium. Ben Gilby heard from the Reds’ Isabel Hodgson and Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis ahead of the game (20/1/22).

Adelaide United star Isabel Hodgson will make her 50th appearance for the South Australian club tomorrow night. She reflected on her career and spoke of her pride and excitement in making the milestone.

“When you think that we only play 14 games a season, it’s quite a long time (that I’ve been going). It’s always good to get out and play, getting consistent seasons under your belt and now I’ve got to the 50th appearance.

Being one of the club’s more experienced players, Hodgson highlighted some of the biggest changes that she’s seen at Adelaide United.

“Back when I started, the club wasn’t professional, so that’s a massive change between a professional league and a non-pro one.

“As a club, we’re now looking to make Finals and win the league. Eight years ago we were struggling to be competitive, so that’s the biggest change I’ve seen here.”

Hodgson then turned her attention to Friday’s opponents Wellington Phoenix, who at present are bottom with only a point from their maiden season.

“The thing with playing a lower team on the table is they have nothing to lose so they can go into every game just putting everything out there. We know that their results don’t match with how they have played. Last week they were 2-0 up against Brisbane Roar who are a great team.

“It’s easier going into games as the underdogs. You know you’re not going to make Finals. We’ve been in that place before. We were losing games, but we’d pick up the odd win. I want to make sure we’re not one of those teams that are beaten. Games like this are the ones that we have to absolutely get the three points from especially as we didn’t get anything last week.

“We know it’s a winnable game and we want to go out and put on a show to get the three points.

“We need to put in a 90-minute performance. Last week we played well for 45. We know we dropped off in the second half. When we have a good run of play, we need to make sure that we put goals away. If we can play at our best, we can beat any team.”

Above: Gemma Lewis, the Wellington Phoenix head coach who spoke about the “honest conversations” she has had with her side this week. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says her players were “really gutted” after the loss to the Roar and had a few honest conversations about why it felt worse than a 5-0 defeat.

“Once we addressed that and had a bit of an open conversation about it and then looked to Adelaide, the mood in the camp has been good since. They’re bouncing back quicker than I thought they would have.

“I think as a group we have to find that confidence and belief to know that in those games we can compete and we can still get a result out of it.

“The worst thing that could have happened to us, happened to us and we didn’t even get a single point out of it.

“Now it’s that experience, growth and learning opportunity that hopefully when we’re in it again, we’ve experienced it, it’s not unusual to us, it’s not so scary to us anymore and hopefully they’ll have a lot more belief and confidence to finish off a game.”

The Phoenix have just one point to show for their endeavours at the halfway stage of the regular season, but Lewis doesn’t want her players to be results focussed.

“Not focusing on the result is hard to do but that game (against Brisbane) showed how purposeful it was.

“As much as they haven’t been in that situation where they’ve been 2-0 up and winning before they also started to focus too much on it.

“I think it made them panic. We moved away from our game plan, we started to play ourselves into trouble, we started to play frantically (and) we turned over so much possession. I think it caused us problems.”

Instead, Lewis wants the players to focus on the way they want to play, execute and improve from game to game.

“I think if we do that the outcome of the game should come, but we’re trying not to solely focus on the score, or the win, or the loss, or the draw because from our first half of the season that’s where we’ve struggled in the motivation.”

Gemma Lewis concedes they are still trying to strike the right balance with their aggressive playing style.

“We’re still figuring it out. I’m not going to lie.

“We want to encourage the side to play, but…sometimes we overplay and we get ourselves into trouble.

“Sometimes we’re too calm in the moment when we need to move the ball a little bit quicker or react a little bit more quickly. Sometimes we go too far down the other end and we panic and start to get chaotic.

“The way we defend is with an intensity that can be chaotic…so when we defend with that intensity and that almost chaos it’s then being able to shift into possession of now you have the ball and can settle things down.

“I think that’s why we fade in games because we don’t strike that balance well. We defend at hundred miles an hour and we try and play at a hundred miles an hour. We struggle for an in-between.”

Lewis says they have been preparing “for living in the chaos” as Adelaide have a similar aggressive mindset to the Phoenix and are successful at it.

“They live in chaos, they love it. How they press, their counter-press, their defensive transition, their counter-attacking ability, I find they actually thrive in the chaos so they’re going to want to put us under the pump, press us and force us to turn over possession high.

“We’ve done sessions on trying to figure out how to live within that panic and how to not get in that space of letting them dictate the game.”

Forward Kelli Brown will miss her second successive match for the Nix because of concussion, while centre-back Mackenzie Barry remains in doubt with an ankle injury.

“We don’t know how long Kelli’s going to be out for. She’s still got symptoms so she’s not going to be cleared anytime soon, I don’t think.

“To be completely honest we’re being really stretched at the moment.

“Mack is still very much 50/50 right now and then we’ve also got another two players on limited minutes. We’re getting down to the bones of what we’ve got.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

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