THE Wellington Phoenix go into Wednesday night's Hyundai A-League game against Brisbane Roar in Dunedin well aware a second win in four days would take them back into the top six. But they will need to play a lot better than they did in beating Perth Glory 1-0 on Saturday to do it.
In a scrappy, error-ridden affair, the Phoenix had the final say with a cracking Ben Sigmund header breaking the deadlock with just four minutes to play. That peach dashed any hopes the Glory entertained of scoring a breakthrough first win at Westpac Stadium.
But the bad far outweighed the good in a dour battle which handed respective goalkeepers Tony Warner and Danny Vukovic armchair rides although Warner did have one anxious moment as he struggled to secure the ball in a goalmouth scramble.
Much-vaunted goal-grabber Shane Smeltz, on his return to the Cake Tin for the first time with the Glory, did not raise a yelp against the no-nonsense Phoenix central pairing of Sigmund and captain Andrew Durante.
The only goal came in the 87th minute when substitute Mirjan Pavlovic won a corner. Leo Bertos floated over his team's sixth corner of the match.
Sigmund timed his run perfectly and rocketed his header just under the bar giving Vukovic no chance.
Pavlovic then blotted his copybook with a cynical tackle from behind to join his club's roll of shame as yet another to be sent off.
While coach Ricki Herbert can take some satisfaction from a reasonable run of form - two wins, two draws and odd goals losses (both away) from the last six matches - he can do without the silly indiscretions which are costing the team dearly.
Tim Brown, Tony Lochhead and Paul Ifill were also booked. Those cards, too, are mounting up and will soon lead to mandatory stand-downs.
It will not be any easier in Dunedin against a Roar side who, two weeks ago, slammed four past Perth to set the record for the longest unbeaten run in Australian sport.
Since then Brisbane have lost to Sydney (away) and on Friday to Melbourne Heart at home - to end an even longer unbeaten run at Suncorp - and will arrive in Dunedin determined to snap a streak which has seen their lead at the top of the standings slashed to the point that they have been joined on top by Central Coast Mariners.
"It was a tough one; a bit of a wrestle," said Herbert after his team's third win of the season. "There was also a lot of whistle. That made it difficult to get things going but it was pleasing to keep a clean sheet as I felt we were the better team."
Sigmund said keeping a clean sheet was as good a feeling as scoring the winning goal.
"You always worry when Shane [Smeltz] is around. When we lost in Perth [0-1] he did nothing all game and then scored the only goal," said Sigmund. "I was determined he wouldn't score today. The back four has played well all season and it will be a pity if Tony [Lochhead] is out."
Lochhead sustained a groin injury in the closing stages and is likely to miss the trip to Dunedin.