WELLINGTON Phoenix captain Andrew Durante has slammed the quality of the surface at Skilled Park after his side went down 2-0 to Gold Coast United in a disappointing performance on Saturday night.
The pitch at Robina has been visibly patchy over the past few weeks and combined with the recent heavy rainfall in south east Queensland, appeared to have gotten worse during what was, at times, a spiteful clash that saw referee Allan Milliner produce eight yellow cards.
Although stopping short of blaming the playing surface for the result, Durante said it wasn't good enough for Hyundai A-League level and believed it may have contributed to the nature of the game.
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"I thought it was shocking. There was dirt everywhere, we were losing footing, it was bobbly and it was just poor," Durante said.
"I spoke to the groundsman before the game and he told us the reasons why (it was like that) but the ground was poor.
"I think rain was the main reason why it was like that but when you add rain to a pitch like that, that's what you get.
"I don't think it was a nasty game, you just had a couple of teams who were desperate to get results.
"We're trying to keep our spot in the six and we were doing whatever it took and I don't think it was a dirty game but maybe the ref was a bit inconsistent at times - he let things go and punished other things but we've said enough about the referees over the season."
Assistant coach Luciano Trani, filling in for the suspended Ricki Herbert, was diplomatic in his assessment of the pitch but stressed the importance of each stadium providing a quality surface for both player welfare and the overall quality of the match.
"You've just got to hope that all stadiums understand the responsibility of having a good surface. Surfaces are going to vary from state to state and it's just one of those things," Trani said.
"It's that time of the year when different codes are using different venues when they try and change the surface for different stages of their preparations and the timing sometimes isn't right."
Although disappointed by his side's performance and their inability to break down a notoriously stubborn Gold Coast defence, Trani said that there were some positives the Kiwis could take out of the match - in particular, the numerous chances they created in the early stages of the game.
"I'm sure that we'll bounce back. We had some good early openings in the first half but we didn't capitalise on those chances, and that's where we got caught in two set pieces which was unfortunate," he said.
"We were always going to be behind the eight ball and sometimes that's the way it is when you come to a place like the Gold Coast, who are defending really well and they'll defend in numbers - they even had some extra centre halves doing some defensive responsibilities in midfield."
Trani also revealed gloveman Mark Paston suffered medial ligament damage to his knee after a rough collision with Gold Coast striker Bruce Djite, and the star of the All Whites' World Cup campaign in South Africa could be out for some time.
"Prior to all games this month there has been a pitch inspection by both GCU and the FFA and there have been no concerns raised.
"We have a dedicated staff of groundsmen working on the pitch to make sure it’s in the best possible condition for Sunday’s clash."