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Lochhead Out, Ifill In Doubt For Fury Match

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Lochhead Out, Ifill In Doubt For Fury Match

By Fred Woodcock of NZPA

Groins were all the talk at Wellington Phoenix training today as injuries to gun striker Paul Ifill and defender Tony Lochhead disrupt preparations for their A-League soccer match against North Queensland Fury here on Friday.

Ifill did not train today and is doubtful for Friday's match, but Lochhead's injury is considered worse and could well keep him out of action for several weeks, if not months.

The All Whites left back will see a specialist tomorrow about a torn left adductor, which may require surgery.

Wellington and New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert today pulled Lochhead out of the national team for internationals against Honduras in Auckland on October 9 and Paraguay in Wellington three days later.

The injury is not a recurrence of the groin injury he had surgery on prior to this year's World Cup.

"We're not 100 per cent at the moment, we'll know in the next 24 to 48 hours, but it could be longer term," Herbert said today.

"I'm not a specialist but at this stage we're thinking it could require surgery. I think that might be the only option.

"In fairness to him it kind of needs to be taken care of properly now."

Lochhead is the most capped Wellington player with 74 appearances but there is more than adequate cover for him, with the versatile Manny Muscat slated to make a move from the defensive midfield to left back, where he has played before.

Of more pressing concern for Herbert will be a groin injury to Ifill, the Phoenix's most dangerous attacking player.

Herbert will give the English-born Barbadian international, voted the third best player in the A-League last season, until matchday to prove his fitness but admits Ifill may require more rest than just a day or two off from training.

In recent weeks Ifill has struggled to make the sort of impact he did during last season, when he scored 13 goals and dominated opposing teams.

"We're resting Paul today. I think you're finding the intensity of the league is going to be tough and we've had to back up three pretty big games in a short period of time, so I don't want to risk anybody," Herbert said.

"It's not ideal to (rest him of Friday), it wouldn't be my preference, so we'll give him time."

Wellington have struggled to create opportunities without an in-form Ifill. Daniel would be next in line to replace him, while Vince Lia, who has returned from injury, is expected to slot into Muscat's holding midfield role alongside Tim Brown in a 4-3-3 formation.

Nick Ward would play further forward in the hole behind the three strikers, giving more support to Chris Greenacre.

Herbert said he would hold off playing three defenders in a 3-4-3 for at least another week.

Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has played the past three matches and is expected to keep All Whites hero Mark Paston, who has returned from injury, out of the team for another week.

Meanwhile, Herbert will not replace Lochhead for the international series, reducing his squad size to 20 players.

 

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