Sydney FC forced to shuffle pack for Wellington clash
A fiery A-League Women clash plagued with broken bones, concussions and a suspension has left Sydney FC short four key players for the visit of Wellington.
While last weekend's 3-0 win against title rivals Western United pushed the Sky Blues to the top of the table, coach Ante Juric now faces a defensive headache as he tries to fill some gaping holes in his backline.
Key defender Charlotte Mclean will miss four weeks after undergoing surgery for a fractured cheekbone thanks to a head-on collision with teammate Jada Whyman in the dying minutes of Sunday's clash.
Goalkeeper Whyman was left concussed and will miss a week, while captain Madison Haley is in doubt due to an ongoing hip injury.
Fill-in skipper Natalie Tobin was shown two yellow cards against United - her second sending-off of the season - putting her out of action with a one-match ban.
Defensive midfielder Shay Hollman, away on international duty with Australia at the under-20 Women's Asian Cup qualifiers, will also miss the game.
Deborah-Anne de la Harpe and Anna Green are the most likely options to fill the gaps in defence while Katie Offer will step in between the posts to replace Whyman.
"It's disappointing because these players have had great seasons," Juric said.
"But we feel that any players coming into our team from our squad can do a job, and that's no different this weekend."
With only goal difference separating the top two, Juric will look to fiery forwards Princess Ibini, Cortnee Vine and Rachel Lowe to lead from the front.
The red-hot partnership between Vine and Lowe provided the magic needed to defeat United last weekend, and should leave Wellington's defence nervous on Saturday.
Lowe, who scored twice last week thanks to a couple of well-weighted through-balls from Vine, will look to continue her form despite still not being fully recovered from a viral infection.
"As I'm feeling better and better I'm able to give more to the team and I guess that's kind of showing," she told AAP on Thursday.
"It is really nice to be at the top of the table. We've been through a few dips but overall we've proved ourselves."
While the missing players will make things harder, Lowe said the Sky Blues still had enough in the bank.
"We're lucky we do have the depth of our team on our side, but Wellington are always a good team and we can't take it lightly," she said.
"We've been working this week at training on getting some clarity on who's playing where and getting some confidence in the girls that haven't had as much game time."
The Sky Blues last took on bottom-of-the-table Phoenix two weeks ago in Auckland, Lowe scoring in a 1-0 win.