Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has questioned the refereeing standards in the A-League, after a controversial red card decision in the 4-2 loss to the Perth Glory on Friday night.
Defender Tim Payne was sent from the field in the 71st minute, with the visitors trailing 3-1, in what looked an extremely harsh call.
It may not have been the tipping point, but the Phoenix rallied superbly in the second half to come back to 3-2, before the weight of numbers eventually proved too much.
Talay is a measured individual — not usually one to shoot from the hip — but couldn't hold back after the match.
"It's the referees opinion at the end of the day," said Talay, when asked about the decision. "For me, my opinion I think they are inconsistent in their calls anyway.
"They need to more consistent in what they do. The A-League is not a developmental league for referees. Players go out there and play for results and sometimes decisions influence the game."
After being booked in the first half for a late challenge, Payne got his second yellow after clipping the heels of Nicholas D'Agostino, as they chased a through ball on the Glory side of halfway. Even on first viewing it looked accidental and innocuous, which was confirmed when seeing the replays.
"They have to make a decision in a matter of seconds and for him it was a second yellow, but I would like them to be more consistent," said Talay, pointing to a foul on Cameron Devlin in the first half which went unpunished.
Putting aside that frustration, Talay was disappointed with the sloppy end to the first half, as they conceded the kind of goals they have usually prevented this season, but also impressed with their second half comeback.
"We made it difficult for ourselves, conceding two goals in three minutes late in the first half," said Talay. "We made changes and got back into it but the sending off made it a lot more difficult. But the boys showed a lot of pride in themselves and courage and still went for it and tried to get something out of the game."
The first three Glory goals, scored either side of halftime will make for uncomfortable viewing during Sunday's review session.
The first was a result of poor marking from a corner, the second down to static defending as the Phoenix seemed to momentarily switch off before the break and the third a free header in the six yard box.
The Phoenix were always going to be vulnerable, given the long travel to Western Australia and the absurdly late kick off time (it was almost 1am NZT when the second half got underway) and they were punished for being slightly off their game.
But in the equivalent fixture last year they sunk without trace — a 5-0 defeat, that could have been much worse — whereas on Friday they showed their fighting qualities, while the spectacular cameo from Hooper was encouraging.
The former Celtic and Norwich City striker scored two well taken goals after coming on in the 60th minute, and could become the ace in the pack over the rest of the season.
The result sees Wellington remain in fourth on the A-League ladder, while Perth stay third, but with a five-point buffer.
The Phoenix next face Melbourne City at Eden Park on Saturday, looking to preserve their unbeaten record at the Auckland venue.