The old adage that it never rains but pours is certainly true for Wellington Phoenix as it prepares for Sunday’s A-League clash with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park.
Already without seven players away on international duty, Phoenix was robbed of Cameron Lindsay, who was set to make his A-League debut, within hours of arriving in Melbourne.
Lindsay was taken to hospital on Saturday morning after vomiting throughout the night and the youngster, who is in his second season with the club, was bitterly disappointed when a doctor ruled out any chance of him playing on Sunday.
His omission meant Jimmy Downey, who has no pre-season game time under his belt after an injury-hit last season, jumped on an afternoon flight from Wellington and was due at the team’s St Kilda hotel on Saturday night.
Young goalkeeper Scott Basalaj, promoted from Phoenix’s Football School of Excellence, has also missed out on making his debut through illness.
Basalaj, who is still at school, is not at full fitness after losing 6kg since the club’s tour of India and will have to be content with a place on the bench with former Phoenix stopper Jacob Spoonley, on loan for the week from Auckland City, starting.
Sunday’s game will see a return to action for Vince Lia, another player who has had an injury interrupted pre-season.
“I’ve not had a lot of football in the last few months, but I’ve watched a lot,” Lia said.
“It is going to be a tough game with so many of our regular starters not here but it is also an opportunity for the young players to shine.
“Louis (Fenton) showed what was possible last week and this is a chance for others to do the same.
“There is no pressure on the young guys. They should just go out and enjoy it.
“The good thing is we’ve known about it (international duty) for a while and been able to prepare for being without them.
“When you’ve got so many internationals in a team it is going to happen. It is just good this year we’ve got more depth, even with the long term injuries we’ve got.”
Lia was pencilled in for a start in midfield but Lindsay’s demise means he will switch to right back with another youngster, Tom Biss, likely to make his debut in midfield.
“Somehow I just keep floating back there but I’m just happy to be back fit, training and getting a chance to play,” he said.
“I’ve got a game almost by default but it is a chance for me to do well and stake a claim for a regular spot.”
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