Wellington Phoenix boss Des Buckingham says his team started with “effectively 10 men” in their disappointing 3-1 loss against Western Sydney Wanderers at Spotless Stadium on Sunday night.
Buckingham made the decision to replace left-back Adam Parkhouse after half an hour in the match, at which stage the Nix were down 1-0 thanks to a Nico Martinez strike.
Believed to be a tactical decision, Buckingham revealed in his post-match press conference that the utility had fallen ill the night before, but did not report the condition.
The coach was left “hugely disappointed” not knowing of the sickness.
“They were getting a lot of success down their right-hand side through Jumpei and some of the movement of Mitch Nichols, and Adam wasn’t dealing with it,” Buckingham said.
“We couldn’t let it continue.
“Subsequently, Adam has underreported a sickness and a virus that he felt late last night and this morning and which he told us about after 20 minutes of the game happening.
“It’s a big game for us and it’s a big game for them. We needed 11 fit players and we travelled with a squad.
“We left players at home that weren’t quite fully fit, so when you’ve got a ready able replacement in Tom Doyle that could have started the game with 11 fit, fresh players on the pitch, that’s hugely disappointing for the playing group, the staff and the club.
“It’s not a game that we can come in(to) and carry players.”
Buckingham says the issue will be dealt with in-house.
“We’ll deal with it when we get back to the hotel and get back home,” he said.
“We needed every single player to step up this evening, and with effectively 10 men, you struggle to do that, especially when you’re coming up against the quality frontline that Western Sydney pose.”
Wellington’s defeat leaves them five points behind sixth-placed Western Sydney in seventh, and with just four games remaining and 12 points to play for, a finals tilt now appears unlikely.
But Buckingham refused to give up the chase, insisting the Nix would continue to push in their next fixture against Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium.
“We’ll still be trying to push for that sixth spot, but it’s very much in Western Sydney Wanderers’ hands now,” he added.
“We’ll focus on the selection of the team to make sure the players that we put out represent this football club and represent it well.”