Unhappy Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna has blasted defender Dean Heffernan for his ill-discipline which could prove costly in the Mariners' bid to shore up an A-League finals spot.
Heffernan was red-carded for elbowing Victory skipper Kevin Muscat in the head late in the Mariners' 3-0 defeat at Telstra Dome on Friday night.
Heffernan looks certain to pick up a multi-match suspension for his brain explosion - something the Mariners cannot afford with a leaky, undermanned defence and a sudden death showdown with Adelaide next weekend likely to decide their finals fate.
McKinna faces a massive defensive reshuffle for next week after Andrew Clark also picked up a yellow card which will earn him a one-match ban.
But Heffernan's off-the-ball elbow on Muscat while awaiting a corner kick, which drew a straight red card from referee Peter Green, also earned a public kick up the backside from his coach.
"It was shocking. They're up 3-0, he's (Muscat's) sucked him in, wound him up, and Hef's bit," McKinna said.
"It's ridiculous. He's probably out for two games.
"Hopefully whoever comes in next week does a great job and Hef doesn't get back in the team because he doesn't deserve to after ill-discipline like that."
The Mariners must now hope Adelaide United beat Wellington away on Sunday to give them breathing space in the race for the last top four spot.
If the Phoenix win, they will join the fourth-placed Mariners on equal points with one match remaining.
Also concerning for the Mariners is their propensity to ship goals since the departure of defensive midfield enforcer Mile Jedinak to Turkey.
Central Coast have conceded seven goals in the past two matches, and were shredded by the Victory's Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp on Friday night.
The duo sparked a three goals in seven minute burst which turned the match.
The result also heaps pressure on Adelaide, who will now need to beat the Phoenix to regain top spot on the ladder ahead of their clash with the Mariners next weekend.