The Wellington Phoenix's solid start to the season seems a long time ago, as they slumped to their third-consecutive defeat this evening at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.
After beating Sydney FC on opening night before earning two respectable draws against the Melbourne Heart and the Brisbane Roar, today's 1-0 loss left the side languishing in ninth place on the A-League ladder after six rounds.
A mediocre crowd of 6568 piled into the Cake Tin to watch a dull performance from the Phoenix that was as inspiring as the cold and overcast conditions the game was played in.
Gone was the vigour and energy they showed in that 2-0 win over Sydney early last month, which must also seem like a lifetime ago for Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, who clearly needs to find a way to spark his side.
Central Coast grabbed the only goal of the contest when Daniel McBreen ran onto a ball from a throw in and found acres of open space in front of him. He beat the oncoming Mark Paston to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead they never relinquished.
The goal roused Herbert into using his bench, and he promptly summoned Solomon Islands' international Benjamin Totori to replace the industrious Stein Huysegems, who produced a busy 70-minute shift without reward.
Shortly after, Vince Lia was also called upon from the pine as he was sent on for Tony Lochhead, which brought about a change in formation that saw Leo Bertos move to the unfamiliar position of left back as Manny Muscat dropped from midfield into defence.
Youngster Tyler Boyd was also given his chance in the final five minutes but nothing the Phoenix tried produced a breakthrough.
The best scoring opportunity of the opening 45 minutes fell to Huysegems after Phoenix midfielder Alex Smith showed great anticipation to intercept a wayward Mariners' pass.
Smith found Huysegems, who had made good ground to get in to the penalty area, but the former Belgian international spurned his shot wide, which he was forced to take with his right boot rather than his favoured left.
Aside from Huysegems' chance on goal there were precious few scoring opportunities although the Phoenix did endure one hairy moment when a bouncy back pass caught Paston on the hop as he scuffed his clearance.
Luckily for the home side, Durante and Sigmund were in close proximity to the ball and eventually cleared their lines to keep out any further threat from the Mariners.
Mile Sterjovski also found himself on goal after he turned Phoenix left back Tony Lochhead around at the half-hour mark, but as Paston left his line the Mariners midfielder put his shot high, wide and away from the target.
With a lack of truly clinical finishing the sides entered the changing rooms with the scoreboard at Westpac Stadium displaying 0-0 at the split.
Despite an - at times - entertaining second spell being played out, it was only the Mariners who could find the back of the net as they registered their sixth victory on the bounce over Wellington.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Danny McBreen 68) Wellington Phoenix 0 HT: 0-0
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel