Mariners coach Graham Arnold believes the Phoenix will qualify for another A-League finals series "without a problem" if they can keep replicating the performance shown in Saturday's 1-1 draw.
Central Coast remain top of the table despite Dani Sanchez's late header at Westpac Stadium, which cancelled out Daniel McBreen's 10th goal of the season.
Arnold, the respected former Socceroos mentor, believed his was the better side for the first 75 minutes before allowing the hosts to batter them for the last 15.
He was impressed with teenage Kiwi wingers Tyler Boyd and Louis Fenton.
"If the Phoenix keep playing like that, they'll be in the top-six without a problem," Arnold said.
"I was very impressed with their young boys. It really gave them some mobility and speed up front, and energy. You can see that they're trying to play a different style as well and you've got to give full credit to the Phoenix."
Central Coast play a relatively similar style to the seventh-placed Phoenix, although they are better at it and much more consistent.
Both teams have fullbacks that are encouraged to get forward at every opportunity, and both have strong centre back pairings.
The difference is largely through midfield, where Tom Rogic and Michael McGlinchey are creative attackers and Nick Montgomery and John Hutchinson keep things steady.
"I'm very happy with the point in the end," Arnold said.
"I thought the first 75 minutes we should have killed the game off and the last 15 it was all Wellington. In the end we were lucky to get away with a point."
McBreen, a 35-year-old journeyman enjoying his best A-League season, ensured himself another year in Gosford by tapping in at the end of the first half.
Arnold had promised McBreen an extension if he could score 10 goals this season and incredibly he's ticked that off less than halfway through the campaign.
"No doubt I'll be hearing of him on Monday," Arnold quipped.
"We need him to continue with that type of form to give us any chance of maintaining where we are."
Arnold said Friday's shock result - Western Sydney's 6-1 demolition of second-placed Adelaide - provided his players a perfect wake-up call.
"That type of thing can happen and one thing I'm very proud of with our team is we always turn up. There hasn't been one game in the two and a half years I've been here, that they haven't turned up."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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