Paston not a bench-warmer

PHOENIX No 1 Tony Warner might want to start sleeping with one eye open, after Mark Paston revealed his strategy for winning back his place.

The All Whites goalkeeper was displaced by Warner when he suffered a rib injury in the Phoenix's first game of the season and, with Warner performing well, Paston could turn to drastic measures.

"For a goalkeeper, you don't get a huge amount of opportunities,'' he said. "It's not like you can come on for the last 10 minutes of a game to win back your spot.

"There's not a lot you can do - apart from getting a hitman to take him out.''

It wouldn't be a surprise if Paston had the phone number for one on his speed dial. This is the third-straight season he's been the Phoenix's first choice between the sticks, only to suffer an injury and lose his spot. Warner is only following in the tradition of Glen Moss, Liam Reddy and Danny Vukovic, glovemen who have seized their opportunity at the expense of Paston.

"It's pretty frustrating but life goes on, it's part of football,'' he said. 'He's come in and done nothing wrong. He's kept his spot and it's just a matter of waiting.

"The only thing you can do is make sure, if you do get a chance, you're ready to go.''

Those chances may be few and far between. Although the Phoenix have been slumping - taking only two points from their last five games - Warner has been solid and, at times, spectacular in goal.

The English-born journeyman has conceded seven goals in his six games behind an unsettled Wellington back four, but has made some stunning saves in that period, most notably in the Phoenix's battling point at league-leaders Brisbane.

"I think he's been playing well,'' Paston said. "The goals we've copped, I don't think he's had too much to blame for them. He's done pretty well.''

Ironically, Paston himself has played a part in Warner's form. The pair have been operating this season without a fulltime goalkeeping coach and rely on each other during training, something Paston said has ensured their relationship has remained strong.

"The fact we don't have a goalkeeping coach means it's more important for the relationship to be pretty solid.''

While he said his alliance with coach Ricki Herbert isn't strained, either, the wildcard in this situation is Paston's contract. His current deal runs out at the end of this season and Herbert would be remiss to let the 34-year-old leave the club, considering Warner is the only other 'keeper on the Phoenix's books.

"That's something I've got to work through in the next few weeks and months,'' Paston said. "There are a couple of options on the table and, when the time's right, I'll make that decision.''

In the meantime, there's the small matter of the Phoenix getting back to winning ways, starting on Sunday against Sydney. The Nix have lost two on the trot at Westpac Stadium, something Paston aims to amend as soon as possible.

"I think it's all about getting a run going, we've shown that in previous seasons. If you get a run of wins going you start sliding up the table.

"We've defended pretty well. We just seem to be copping goals at bad times in games and having to play catch-up a bit.''

Paul Ifill is in line for a start following his impressive cameo off the bench last weekend, while fellow striker and long-term absentee Mirjan Pavlovic may feature after taking part in full training during the week. Dani Sanchez is still unavailable with a hamstring injury.

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