Wellington Phoenix will have at least four debutants in their starting line-up against Melbourne Heart on Saturday.
The scheduling of A-League games during World Cup qualifying rounds means seven players who were in the squad for the Phoenix’s 2-0 win over Sydney will be missing for the round two trip across the Tasman.
New Zealand play Tahiti in Papeete on Saturday and again in Christchurch on Tuesday, while Benjamin Totori will be in action for the Solomon Islands as well.
It is a frustrating situation for the club which made submissions to Football Federation Australia to have the match rescheduled but were turned down.
“The biggest thing is that it’s disappointing that the A-League won’t give us time off,” said defender Ben Sigmund, one of six All Whites who will miss the Heart match.
“It just seems pathetic. It’s just annoying for everyone.”
With goalkeepers Mark Paston and Glen Moss, defenders Leo Bertos, Sigmund and Tony Lochhead, plus striker Jeremy Brockie all on All Whites duty it has left the defensive ranks particularly thin.
Academy players, goalkeeper Scott Basalaj and left-back Luke Rowe, are expected to start at AAMI Park as are uncapped squad members Michael Boxall and Cameron Lindsay at centre-back and right-back, respectively.
With five injured players – Vince Lia, Lucas Pantelis, Jimmy Downey, Dani Sanchez and Mirjan Pavlovic – also unavailable, cover will be required on the bench too so academy duo Hamish Watson and Tom Biss could be handed one-match contracts as well.
“It’s not only the seven who are going to be away but we’ve got four that aren’t back training properly yet so that’s a huge impact,” said Herbert, who will hand the reins to assistants Chris Greenacre and Jonathan Gould for the match.
“We’ll have to bring in some young players and integrate them into the team.
“But we’ll be there. We’ll front up. We’ve got three points to go and get against Melbourne Heart.”
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