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The Wellington Phoenix are still within touching distance of the A-League playoffs but they need to pick up some points in a hurry after they were drilled 5-0 by the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford last night.
After beating Perth 1-0 in Auckland last weekend, the Phoenix had hopes of sparking their ailing campaign after a mid-season slump saw them plumb the depths of the bottom of the ladder.
The victory over Perth meant they were somehow only one point outside of the top six heading in to tonight's trip across the Tasman but the heavy loss will not have helped their cause.
Wellington were without a handful of players for tonight's game, including the injured Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead, while Ben Sigmund was unavailable through suspension.
It meant that Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert had to reshuffle his back line and move Manny Muscat out of the midfield in to right back, while Ian Hogg was given another chance to prove himself on the left side of defence.
Michael Boxall was given a rare opportunity to have a gallop at centre back and Hogg was given a tough examination by Mariners striker Bernie Ibini, who relentlessly ran at the rookie who was playing only his second A-League game.
Ibini was the first to get his name on the score sheet after a Mariners cross rebounded off Hogg's head in to goalkeeper Mark Paston and fell at the feet of the Mariners frontman who gladly gave the home side the advantage on the half-hour mark.
Only seconds earlier, New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey had a decent shout for a penalty but his cries for a spot kick were correctly waved away by the officials.
The Phoenix had looked like they would leak a goal at some stage and were probably lucky to head to the half-time split only down 1-0, although Jeremy Brockie did have a header cleared off the line from a corner.
In the early stages of the second spell Wellington held their own but rarely threatened the Mariners who have a rock solid defence built around veterans Patrick Zwaanswijk and Pedj Bojic.
As the second half pushed on you got the impression the Mariners would make the game safe at some point and skipper John Hutchinson got a rare goal when he was left unmarked at the back post on the follow-up possession from a corner in the 65th minute.
As the Phoenix dropped their heads, experienced frontman Daniel McBreen grabbed his 15th goal of the season, which killed off any hopes of a Phoenix come back with 21 minutes left.
Ibini then added his second in the final stages, while Mitchell Duke also scored, which capped another awful night in Australia for the Wellingtonians.
Brockie picked up his fifth yellow card of the season during the second half and will miss the away trip to the Brisbane Roar on February 17.
The Mariners kept their remarkable record up on their home field this season and they've now won eight from nine at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford, with their only blip being a draw.
The league-leaders are unbeaten in 2013 and will be a tough ask for any team that dares to take them on in the playoffs.
Central Coast Mariners 5 (Bernie Ibini 30, 87, John Hutchinson 65, Daniel McBreen 69, Mitchell Duke 89), Wellington Phoenix 0 HT: 1-0
- Daniel Richardson of APNZ