Wellington Phoenix have been held to a 1-1 draw by Western United in their A-League showdown in Launceston.
Despite playing the second half against just 10 men, after United defender Brendan Hamill was shown a red card, the Phoenix were unable to add to their early goal scored by Ben Waine and were forced to share points with the Melbourne side.
Just seven minutes into the match, Waine, 19, continued his remarkable breakout run, scoring his third goal in as many games to get the Phoenix off to the ideal start.
The OlyWhite latched on to a clever cross from Ulises Davila to direct a delicate first-touch into the bottom left corner for his fifth goal of the season.
Western United struck back with an equaliser 20 minutes later, when Lachlan Wales snuck a perfectly placed shot through a group of defenders and past the outstretched arms of keeper Oli Sail to square the ledger.
Two minutes into added time in the first half, Hamill was shown his second yellow card for a suspect aerial challenge on Waine to put his team on the back foot heading into the interval.
In the second half, the Phoenix piled on the offensive pressure, but couldn't find the winner they needed, with Davila's left-footed effort in the 90th minute crashing cruelly off the post.
Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay rued the Phoenix’s squandered chance to pick up the full three points and improve their ninth position on the ladder.
"It's a big opportunity missed for us tonight," Talay says. "The first half, we played some good football, the second half was not good enough.
"We've got another against Adelaide in a couple of days, which we’ll have to have a look at some of the players and how they pull up, but the end result was disappointing… especially in the second half, playing against 10 men."
Despite the draw, coach Talay believes the Phoenix are still firmly in the hunt for a top-six finish.
"I still think there's enough games and I still think there's enough points," he notes. "We've got a very big game back in Wollongong against Adelaide [on Sunday], so we just need to prepare for that and hopefully get the best outcome there."
Off contract at the end of this season, Talay also touched on his ongoing negotiations with the club, which he described as being conducted "in good spirits" with chairman Rob Morrison.
In his second season with the Phoenix, the Australian hopes to have a deal in place within the coming week.
"Things are going very well," he says. "Things are happening in very good spirits, so hopefully we can get that all sorted by the end of next week."