Phoenix strikers hail Hamish’s impact

Hyundai A-League stars Roy Krishna and Kosta Barbarouses have paid tribute to the impact centre-forward Hamish Watson had in his return to Wellington Phoenix’s starting XI against Central Coast Mariners.

Watson made his third start of the season last week, scoring the opening goal in just the second minute as Wellington triumphed 3-0 over the Mariners in Hamilton.

It was an impressive performance from the burly 23-year-old, who led the Phoenix for shots (7) and linked up well with fellow strikers Krishna and Barbarouses.

Watson made 14 passes for the game, feeding Barbarouses four times and Krishna on three occasions.

The Phoenix scored over two goals for the first time this season at FMG Stadium Waikato, and looking ahead to Saturday’s clash with Western Sydney Wanderers in Auckland, Krishna is clearly looking forward to working with Watson again.

“Hamish just comes in and it gives me and Kosta more freedom to move around but we kind of know our roles pretty well – even when Ernie was here – but it helps me and Gui [Finkler] and Kosta to move around quite a lot and that’s the understanding we needed,” the Fijian told reporters on Thursday.

Wellington Phoenix players celebrate Roy Krishna's opener against the Mariners at GIO Stadium.

“So I think that clicked last week. Hopefully it can continue this week as well.”

Barbarouses added of Watson: “He occupies the two centre-backs and gives myself and Roy a bit more space and causes a bit more uncertainty for their back four.

“I mean it worked out really well [against Central Coast].”

With former coach Ernie Merrick having quit last week, the Phoenix bounced back against the Mariners to move up to eighth in the A-League table.

Wellington are just two points adrift of the sixth-placed Wanderers heading into their Round 11 clash at Mt Smart Stadium and with five of their next seven games in New Zealand, the Phoenix are targeting a surge up the standings.

Kosta Barbarouses

“We know if we get on a decent run we’re still right amongst it, you know,” Barbarouses said.

“We’re not far off the pace after that win and looking at the schedule there’s some very winnable games there.

“We go out with a positive mindset every game but I think this next three or four games we can really go on a run and get back up on the ladder.”

After hosting Western Sydney, the Phoenix have an away game against Newcastle Jets and a home fixture versus Adelaide United – two teams outside the A-League’s top six – before visiting Perth Glory, who are currently fifth.