The Wellington Phoenix have been made to rue a missed opportunity to edge closer to the top six, as they were held to a 1-1 draw with ten-man Western United in Launceston last night.
With the match delicately poised, United lost defender Brendan Hamill for a second yellow card just before halftime of Thursday's contest after the defender was adjudged to have elbowed Ben Waine in an aerial duel.
In a spiteful clash, referee Alex King ended up dishing out 10 yellow which ultimately ended with the hosts moving into seventh on the A-League table and the 'Nix remaining ninth.
"Very soft. Extremely soft," United boss Mark Rudan said of the Hamill send-off.
"Should have been 11 vs 11 in the second half. It completely changed the game."
Nonetheless, Rudan's side managed to hold a blunt Wellington at bay throughout the second stanza at UTAS Stadium to earn a point made possible by attacker Lachlan Wales, who cancelled out in-form Waine's early opener in the 27th minute.
Belying their packed schedule, coach Ufuk Talay's Phoenix started strongly and was duly rewarded with a lead within 10 minutes.
Louis Fenton's blocked cross fell to an adjacent Ulises Davila in the seventh and the Mexican star laced a follow-up to Waine, who sent a first-time shot into the bottom corner.
It was the 19-year-old Kiwi's fifth goal of 2020-21 and third in three consecutive starts.
Yet despite chasing shadows for much of the opening exchanges, United rallied to restore parity just before the half-hour mark through Olyroo hopeful Wales.
Starting in place of Besart Berisha, the 23-year-old shrugged off the attention of three defenders after being picked out by Connor Pain and laced an inch- perfect shot into the bottom corner to restore parity.
Despite their one-man advantage, Phoenix struggled to create any chances of note until very late in the second half - Davila forging their best chance when he forced goalkeeper Ryan Scott into a high-class save in the 89th minute.
"I don't think we deserved to actually win the game (based on) that second-half performance," said Talay.
"It's disappointing. The decision making and execution wasn't good enough."