Phoenix's shortcomings exposed by Mariners
From time to time the Wellington Phoenix's brains trust have spoken of a desire to model themselves on the Central Coast Mariners.
Instead of splashing the cash on marquee players, the idea is to claim a lofty perch on the A-League ladder by shopping smart and developing their own talent.
Tonight's game in Gosford illustrated that is a distant dream.
The Mariners maintained their consistently high standards in a 5-0 dismantling of the hapless visitors, opening up a six-point lead at the top of the ladder.
The Phoenix's mini recovery turned out to be a false dawn and they will sink back to last place if Perth Glory can pick up a point or better on Saturday.
A new look back four - featuring Michael Boxall, Ian Hogg and Manny Muscat - was brutally exposed as the Phoenix's midfield was completely over-run.
It was tough to watch and there are deep problems within Ricki Herbert's side.
The Mariners don't have any superstars - the one they did have, Tom Rogic, is now in Scotland.
But they are superbly coached by Graham Arnold, treasure possession and aren't fussed whether the pass is short or long - as long as it is the right thing to do.
The scary thing was it could have been much worse if the Mariners' finishing was more clinical and Mark Paston hadn't made some fine saves.
Bernie Ibini kicked things off after half an hour with one of the easier goals of his young but highly promising career.
After a clever ball from Mile Sterjovski, Josh Rose - the left back who wreaked havoc all night - was allowed to advance deep into the Phoenix box.
By the time Boxall reacted, Rose's cross had been delivered and Hogg and Paston were unable to deal with it as Ibini tapped in.
Would the absent Ben Sigmund, Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead have made a difference?
Maybe, maybe not, but the Mariners didn't care as they stuck the knife in.
John Hutchinson was left unmarked at the back post - unforgivable at this level as he finished off a Sterjovski cross.
Then the Phoenix didn't bother marking the league's leading scorer, Daniel McBreen, who met a Michael McGlinchey corner with his head for 3-0.
It was as one-sided as it gets and Ibini and Mitchell Duke completed the rout as time ticked away and Phoenix shoulders slumped lower and lower.
Central Coast Mariners 5 (Bernie Ibini 2, John Hutchinson, Daniel McBreen, Mitchell Duke) Wellington Phoenix 0