The Wellington Phoenix turned in their worst performance of the season as they went down 4-2 to Perth Glory at NIB Stadium on Friday night.
After starting slowly and going a goal down to a stunning strike by Brazilian Sidnei Sciola in the 16th minute, the Phoenix got their act together and equalised 20 minutes later when superb build-up between Jeremy Brockie and Stein Huysegems led to the latter scoring.
Things got even better for the Phoenix at the start of the second half with Paul Ifill giving Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic no chance with a lovely glancing header from a corner to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage.
However a bizarre incident in the 59th minute led to the home side equalising.
Glory-s Ryan Edwards was yellow carded for a foul on Albert Riera but the free kick was awarded to Perth, and from it Michael Thwaite headed past Glen Moss in the Phoenix goal.
Ifill, who has been coming off the bench in recent weeks, was replaced by Jason Hicks in the 70th minute and two minutes later 17-year-old Matthew Ridenton took over from Riera who was struggling with a groin strain.
The substitution completed a busy few weeks for Ridenton who only took up his contract with the Phoenix in the last week after being in the UAE with the New Zealand team at the under-17 World Cup.
Returning to New Zealand Ridenton had to complete his exams before leaving school and was to attend his graduation ceremony on Sunday morning.
While young Ridenton acquitted himself well there was to be no fairy tale ending with Adrian Zahra giving Perth a 3-2 advantage in the 82nd minute and Sciola completing the win in the first minute of injury time.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was disappointed with his team-s performance.
“I thought we were outplayed after starting badly,” Merrick said.
“Glory had control of the midfield in the first half hour and went a goal up.
“We restructured by putting an extra player in midfield and switching to 4-3-3.
“That helped us take control for the last 15 minutes of the half and we deserved our equaliser.
“When we came out in the second half and took the lead it was looking good but we lost the midfield, didn-t do as well as we usually do in defence, while up front didn-t create enough and what we did create didn-t do anything with.”
Merrick said in the team-s seven previous games they had played well without getting anything to show for it, and of the three losses sustained the deciding goal had been conceded in the last minutes.
“With the All Whites being involved in World Cup qualifiers and some injuries I have struggled to get the best 11 on the park,” the coach said.
“The amount of travelling we have done hasn-t helped but that is part of being at the Phoenix.
“I need to sign another player, preferably an attacking midfielder in the January window because I-m having to put on young players who aren-t quite ready for the A-League.”
On a positive note Merrick said he still felt his team would qualify for the finals.