The Wellington Phoenix turned on a Jekyll and Hyde performance when they were beaten 2-0 by fourth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
In the first half the Phoenix dominated proceedings with a free-flowing, energetic display, though once again they failed to capitalise.
Wanderers keeper Ante Covic had to pull off two top-class saves and Stein Huysegems thudded a superb drive against the crossbar, but the home side couldn-t break through.
With coach Ricki Herbert asking for more of the same in the second spell, he had to sit and endure a sloppy 45 minutes that culminated in Wanderers defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley scoring with a diving header in the 71st minute and Labinot Hailiti adding a second 11 minutes later, thanks to a mix-up between Ben Sigmund and Mark Paston.
Herbert was at a loss to explain the dramatic difference between first and second halves.
“It was really disappointing,” Herbert said.
“In the first half the intensity was good, but we lost it in the second half.
“It got to the point where we couldn-t pass the ball and in the end we just weren-t good enough.
“When you aren-t scoring goals there will always be the chance of mistakes costing you at the other end and that is what is happening to us.
“We created chances in that promising first half but we aren-t ruthless enough in front of goal.”
Herbert now faces the task of lifting his troops for the trip to Australia this week to play a Sydney FC side buoyed by a dramatic come-back win on Sunday.
“We have to remain positive,” he said.
“Paul Ifill and Manny Muscat will be back soon and that will put pressure on for places but in the meantime others have to step up.”
One who may get the chance to do that is new recruit Ian Hogg who is contracted to the end of the current season.
A left back or left midfielder, Hogg will be pushing fellow All White Tony Lochhead for the left back spot.
Asked about Lochhead-s performances in recent weeks Herbert didn-t hold back.
“To be fair Tony-s form has been disappointing and his crossing has been poor,” he said.
“Ian (Hogg) may get a chance and it will be an opportunity to see if he is good enough for this league.”