'It's been a difficult year and a half' - Phoenix striker admits struggles after club return




Wellington Phoenix striker Nathan Burns has embarked on a different sort of football learning curve during the last 18 months.

The striker was in hot demand after leaving Japanese club Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Nathan Burns

Source: Photosport

He admits it's not one he's particularly enjoying, as the Nix struggle with four wins and five draws from 22 games under now-departed coach Darije Kalezic.

Mired at the bottom of the A-League since mid-November, Wellington are tackling the last six games of their season under interim coach Chris Greenacre and desperately need Burns to fire.

But after signing a two-year contract and arriving in January's transfer window, the 29-year-old sharpshooter hasn't scored for the Nix in 10 matches.

It's a stark contrast to his last stint in the capital, under Ernie Merrick's guidance three years ago, when he scored 13 goals in Wellington's run to the A-League play-offs.

The Nix briefly topped the table early in January 2015 and Burns completed a stellar season in winning the Johnny Warren Medal for best player in the league before departing for Japan's J-League.

Burns says his time with relegation battlers Hirsohima in Japan last year, and currently at Wellington, have provided him with a different sort of challenge.

"I think my whole career, 10 years, I've always been in a top team," he said.

"Hiroshima were in relegation and now Wellington down the bottom... it's been a different year and a half for me.

"I've learned a lot playing in the relegation battles, so I think I'm adapting to this kind of situation. You've got to work harder for the team, rather than individually."

That work ethic will be tested in Auckland on Saturday, when Wellington meet second-placed Newcastle at QBE Stadium on the North Shore.

Merrick's Jets will be well-rested, coming off a bye week, but with the added boost of a 2-1 win over defending champions Sydney FC two weeks ago.

The Nix are looking for a better showing than they delivered in last week's 4-1 loss away to Western Sydney, when a 1-1 half-time scoreline blew out late in the second spell.

Burns says while Wellington were able to press Wanderers high in the first half, they couldn't manage a report effort in the second spell.

"We haven't played that all year so it's hard to turn it on for 90.

"If we can get to that level where we can press, or pick our times to press, in the full 90 then I think we can cause some problems."

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