Herbert again sees positives in Phoenix defeat

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
Manny Muscat
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
BALL WINNER: Manny Muscat (left) battles for possession with Michael McGlinchey.

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Ricki Herbert didn't think so, but the right result was arrived at, at Westpac Stadium last night.

His Wellington Phoenix rolled their sleeves up but posed the Central Coast Mariners no problems and actually deserved to lose by more than the final 1-0 scoreline.

The Mariners, through Mile Sterjovski, Tomas Rogic and Daniel McBreen, had all of the A-League match's best chances, before McBreen finally scored the goal the game had been so desperately short of.

"But it looked like a game that we certainly weren't going to lose," Herbert said afterwards.

His reaction to McBreen's 68th minute goal was as puzzling as his after-match assessment.

Herbert's immediate swap of Benjamin Totori, for Stein Huysegems made reasonable sense. Although the Belgian had managed the Phoenix's only attempt on the Central Coast goal, just before halftime.

The next change was a touch more baffling. Left back Tony Lochhead can go seasons without being substituted, but was surprisingly yanked with just under 20 minutes to play.

So off he went, replaced by Vince Lia, who took up a defensive position just in front of the back-four.

That meant Manny Muscat vacating that spot and shifting over to right back. Leo Bertos, who's still learning right back, was shunted across to Lochhead's spot on the left.

"Manny can get forward for us and I just thought we could get a little more width and a bit more depth going forward," said Herbert.

"Tony looked like he was coming to the end of it in that game, so [I] just threw the dice a little bit to see if we could get some options out there."

It came to nought, with Paul Ifill often having to drop deep to pick up the ball, because the guys at the back were struggling to get it forward. He was substituted in the 86th minute, giving Tyler Boyd a brief opportunity.

Herbert praised the contribution Boyd was making, but it's hard to do much in four minutes, plus added time.

A few boos rung round Westpac Stadium at fulltime, but there was no trace of gloom from Herbert.

"I feel sorry for the guys in the dressing room. I thought we were well in the game and had a huge slice of it, against a side who's travelling well and scoring a lot of goals," he said.

"I don't think we looked threatened at all, but we coughed it up with a small mistake and they were good enough to punish us."

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