Boxall grasps new role quickly

14 January 2014 06:54:08 EST

He may not be at home there, but Michael Boxall's performance at right back helped ease Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick's mind as his side drew with Central Coast.

An injury to first-choice right-sided defender Louis Fenton left Phoenix needing to find a replacement for the rest of this season.

And Boxall put his hand up to step into the role for the first time against the Mariners on Sunday.

The assessment of his coach was encouraging, particularly as it was the first time Boxall had played in that position for almost nine years.

The 25-year-old had some issues coping with winger Nick Fitzgerald in the first half but improved as the game went on and impressed Merrick enough for him to be pencilled into face Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

"Good job, not comfortable going forward in the first half, we spoke about it at halftime and then in the second half he started going forward," Merrick said.

"But not only did he go forward, he started cutting inside and played a couple of one-twos. It'll take a little while to find his feet on a regular basis but very happy with Michael. I thought it was a solid defensive display."

Although it was only his eighth game for Wellington, Boxall has senior experience from playing seven times for the All Whites.

Meanwhile, Phoenix have signed goalkeeper Lewis Italiano on a new 12-month deal.

The form of Glenn Moss has kept Italiano to a back-up role this season, but goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould said he had merited an extended stay.

Gould, who previously coached the 22-year-old at Perth Glory, said: "Lewis has a good presence about him and commands his box aerially. He has a laid back, super personality and a lot of things are water off a duck's back to him which is a good trait for a goalkeeper to have."

Melbourne Victory are 21/10 to beat Wellington Phoenix, who are 5/4.

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