Ward buoyed by chance

Ricki Herbert will be hoping an enforced change in midfield can ignite the spark missing from the Wellington Phoenix this season.

Ricki Herbert will be hoping an enforced change in midfield can ignite the spark missing from the Wellington Phoenix this season.

Tim Brown will miss the trip to Newcastle this weekend after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the 3-0 loss to Central Coast last weekend.

His absence means a likely reprieve for Nick Ward, who has been unwanted for the past two matches.

Ward, who announced his arrival at the club in September with a stunning long range strike to clinch a 2-1 win against Sydney in round six, has slipped down the pecking order since being hauled off just after half-time in the 2-2 draw against Melbourne Heart in round 10.

He made appearances off the bench against Adelaide and Brisbane Roar in the following two matches before an off-field issue saw him left behind for the trip to Perth and he was on the outer again last weekend against the Mariners.

But the 25-year-old believes his performances earlier in the season prove he has what it takes to lift the team who have struggled to create and take their chances in front of goal in recent weeks.

“I think I did that when I played in the other games. There is no reason why I couldn’t bring that to the team again,” Ward said.

“I will definitely be going out there to feed the strikers and get forward myself as well. I’m just looking forward to having a good game.”

Ward refused to go into details of why Herbert dropped him for the match in Perth, where the Phoenix secured their first away win of the season, but confirmed his absence was not due to injury.

“I don’t want to go into it. He made the decision not to take me. He decided he didn’t need me for that trip. I stayed back and trained hard. I was ready for last weekend and he decided not to use me.”

Ward is clearly keen to get back on the pitch and prove his worth to his team-mates and his coach.

“I’ve been disappointed to be left out the last few weeks. I’m ready for anything. I came over here to play. I didn’t come over here to sit around so I’m ready to get on there and help us get three points.”

Herbert, who travelled to Hamilton to watch several of his fringe players play in the Phoenix A side’s first ASB Challenge Series match against Waikato on Monday night, has hinted at the possibility of one more change up front for Saturday’s crucial A-League game against the Jets.

“(Mirjan Pavlovic) played up front and I just wanted to see what he could do. He scored and I thought he played very well,” said Herbert, who suggested the young striker could start alongside Chris Greenacre.

“We’d probably play two up front but I think all the players up front are on a little bit of notice.”

“We have got to find the back of the net as well. It’s okay talking about shipping in the goals at the other end. At the end of the day we’ve got to take our chances.”

“Some of the boys at the front probably haven’t created enough or haven’t taken those chances.”

There is also the possibility of a change in defence with Jade North on international duty with Australia and Troy Hearfield likely to step in at right-back.

The Socceroos defender was in the squad for an international friendly against Egypt in Cairo on Wednesday and is only due to arrive in Newcastle on the morning of the match.

Meanwhile, the club, which has also been caught in the middle of owner Terry Serepisos’ NZ$3.58 million tax debt – has been given a much-needed boost by the announcement that New Zealand internationals Brown, Ben Sigmund and Mark Paston and strikers Greenacre and Pavlovic have agreed to stay on at the club.

Brown and Sigmund have signed on for another two years, while keeper Paston will remain for at least one more season.

Pavlovic has extended his contract by another two seasons and Greenacre will remain until at least the end of the Phoenix’s 2011/12 campaign.

Phoenix players now contracted beyond the current season are: Paston, Manny Muscat, Brown, Leo Bertos, Paul Ifill, Greenacre, Daniel, Pavlovic, Vince Lia, Sigmund and captain Andrew Durante.