Central Coast 1 Phoenix 0
The Wellington Phoenix turned in one of their better efforts on the road this season but still came up short in going down 1-0 to Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium last night.
The odds were heavily stacked against the Phoenix but, apart from momentary lapses either side of halftime, they gave themselves a chance against a team who in the end fully deserved their win. And their 10th clean sheet of the season.
Continuing from where they left off midweek in their win over Melbourne Victory, the Phoenix went straight on the offensive but while the firecracker start produced two or three half-decent scoring chances the finishing touch was missing.
Little surprise Marco Rojas was again in the thick of it but his efforts came to naught as Dylan MacAllister's first-minute snap shot was fired straight at goalkeeper Matt Ryan.
The ball was spilled but smartly cleared for a corner which Rojas fired over to Ben Sigmund, who was just off target with his header.
From a second corner in as many minutes Rojas found Brown but his shot, too, was blocked. Rojas then had one of his own, again denied by Ryan. All this in the opening six minutes.
The home side soon settled to force the Phoenix onto the back foot with goalkeeper Danny Vukovic forced into action as wave after wave of Mariners attacks tested their defensive resolve as the visitors gave up possession with a succession of silly free kicks.
Midway through the spell the Phoenix should have gone to the spot when Rojas charged into the penalty area only to have his progress hindered by shirt-tugging defender Patrick Zwaanswijk.
It was a clear call but one which did not come from referee Matthew Breeze or his assistant.
The deadlock was broken five minutes from halftime.
With the Phoenix midfield trio of Brown, Manny Muscat and Vince Lia pushing forward, the gaps opened and ever-likely Patricio Perez broke wide before playing the ball in to Josh Rose, who picked out Michael McGlinchey to provide the clinical finish to claim his first goal of the season two days after celebrating his 24th birthday.
Turning that goal to the good, the home side came out in the second spell intent on inflicting further agony on a visiting team showing signs of tiring.
Coach Ricki Herbert went to his bench twice in the opening minutes after the break with Rojas and Nick Ward giving way to Daniel and Leo Bertos.
On the hour Herbert played his final card with Chris Greenacre on for out-of-sorts defender Troy Hearfield. At the same time Mariners' new signing, Michael Baird, replaced Daniel McBreen.
Tired Phoenix legs struggled as they attempted, often in vain, to retain possession against the rampant home side. To their credit they held firm and then mounted telling attacks of their own but without being able to beat Ryan.
It gets no easier for Herbert and his players. They are back across the Tasman to face runaway leaders Brisbane Roar on Sunday.