Football: Wellington Phoenix turn attention to Waitangi Day clash with A-League champions Central Coast Mariners

Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano is shrugging off a disappointing draw with Brisbane Roar, as the club turns its attention to a crucial showdown with defending champions Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday.

The result against Brisbane ensures the Phoenix will remain atop the A-League table for another weekend - even if second-placed Melbourne Victory draw level with a win, Wellington still hold a countback advantage.

While those two teams have spent much of the season eyeballing each other, the Mariners started their title defence with four opening losses, but have quietly made up ground in recent weeks, with five wins from their last six outings.

Ironically, their last defeat came against Brisbane almost three months ago.

In his first season at the Phoenix helm, Italiano is an unabashed fan of the Mariners style, introduced by counterpart Mark Jackson, who took over from titlewinner Nick Montgomery.

"Out of all of the teams in the A-League, the Mariners are the ones that impress me the most, because they have a new coach with a different way to what they were playing last year," said Italiano.

"They're a young group with new ideas and I actually enjoy watching their football. They provide something to the league that no-one else does.

"I'll enjoy that from a tactical and coaching point [of view]. I get excited by this and so does the group."

The Phoenix also hope the fixture will set new standards for attendance, after attracting 9000 to Sky Stadium for their last home game against the Victory.

Scheduled for Waitangi Day, a big gate would help the club financially secure their roster for next season, with strikers Oskar Zawada and Kosta Barbarouses both off contract.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Italiano. "I think the fans will come out in force.

David Ball in action against Brisbane Roar.
David Ball in action against Brisbane Roar. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a big game for us."

Settling for the draw against Brisbane was a bitter pill to swallow, especially given the hint of a foul on Phoenix midfielder Ben Old during the build-up to the equaliser. You could probably say the same about Oskar van Hattum's contribution to the Phoenix goal.

I'm disappointed to give the two points away at the end and give them one point," said Italiano. "I felt we did enough to graft that out.

"I think there was one moment in the first half where I felt like they got in behind us… and I didn't think they had much else apart from that. The amount of changes I had to make because of some unplanned substitutions with injuries and players fatiguing, and so on, it probably cost us in the end.

"I don't like making substitutions unless I need to. Today, unfortunately, I had to make too many."