Lawrence: Phoenix Can Take Confidence From Last Season Against Canberra

Impetus’ Ryan Miller-Woods listened in to Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence‘s media conference today as the New Zealanders are set for a battle with a Canberra United side who are also looking for their first win of the season (9/12/22).

Above: Natalie Lawrence talking to the media. Photo: Hagan Hopkins.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence revealed today that her side has received a big boost with the news that Emma Rolston is back from injury for their match against Canberra United at McKellar Park tomorrow.

In the first three matches of the season, Wellington has had no problem creating chances, but it has found it more problematic finding the back of the net, with only two goals scored so far.

Lawrence believes that the inclusion of Rolston in the squad will help to improve her side’s scoring opportunities: “Yeah, she helps a huge amount. If I think back to the (Melbourne) City game (in Round One), we created quite a lot, we had 17 shots (in that match) and in the last two games (against Western United and Melbourne Victory) we’ve been quite a lot lower (in shots made), so it’s been a big focus for us this week to create more.

“We want to be an attacking team; we want to create a lot and what Rollo (Emma Rolston) offers us is something completely different to probably anyone else on the team. She’s technically very good, she can shoot from different areas of the field using both feet, she can create for others. So we’re pretty excited to see what she can do this weekend.”

However, whilst Rolston has returned, the Nix are still without three key players. “Kate (Taylor) and Lily (Alfeld) are still on the injury list as is Wis (Grace Wisnewski). So Wis, we decided to give her another week just to get her more touches on the ball, so she just felt ready to come back in and play in the league, so hopefully, she should be available from next week.

Above: Emma Rolston could make her debut for Wellington Phoenix tomorrow. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington are will be buoyed ahead of their trip to Canberra by the fact that the capital city side were one of two teams last season (the other being Western Sydney Wanderers) that they beat in their debut campaign. Lawrence reflected on the confidence that the 3-0 win last season may bring to her squad.

“You can feel it amongst them like we’re at the same hotel, we’re in the same team room that we were that we had lunch in, where we got to celebrate that win last year and as much as that lifts us and gives us confidence, we also know that Canberra are a different team (compared to last season), it’s in a different period of time in the league, it’s early on.

“Canberra have had a couple of draws whereas last year they were struggling and we were focused on getting that first win, so there’s definitely a good feeling and a confidence around the game but not like an over-cockiness. We know they’re going to be super tough.”

One of Canberra’s biggest threats in front of goal is former player Wellington player Grace Jale who was Phoenix’s top goalscorer last season. Her ability in front of goal combined with her ability from set-pieces marks Jale out as a danger player – particular given Wellington’s struggles in defending corners and free-kicks so far this season.

“We know what Jale can offer, we know her threats, we know she’s going to be gunning to score this weekend (in which if she does score against Wellington, she’ll have scored in the most consecutive games in the A-League Women since the 2015/16 season), so we’re really aware of her threats but I’m confident our defenders can nullify those as well but we know the quality that she has for sure,” said the Wellington Phoenix head coach. 

Above: Grace Jale in action for Wellington Phoenix last season. She’ll be lining up against Natalie Lawrence’s side tomorrow for Canberra United. Photo: AAP.

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