Arnold: Rogic needs to be protected

Graham Arnold believes a lack of protection for Tom Rogic may have led to the youngster being sent off in Central Coast's loss to Sydney FC.

Graham Arnold believes a lack of protection for Tom Rogic may have led to the youngster being sent off in Central Coast's loss to Sydney FC.

Rogic was shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Sydney defender Rhyan Grant in the last minute of stoppage time as the Mariners were surprisingly beaten 1-0 at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.

The 20-year-old's dismissal came just two minutes after skipper John Hutchinson was also sent off for two bookable offences, on what turned out to be a forgettable night for the A-League leaders.

The visitors looked like holding on for a well-earned draw until Socceroos midfielder Brett Emerton popped up with an 89th-minute winner for the lowly Sky Blues.

While Arnold was critical of his side's discipline and had no complaints about Hutchinson's sending off, he had doubts over the decision against Rogic.

"I thought he (referee Peter Green) showed Tommy a yellow first and then showed him a red ... I don't know under whose influence that was," the Mariners boss said afterwards.

"Tommy took a few kicks over the 80 minutes and there was not a real lot of protection there for him.

"That was probably the frustrating thing for him there at the end.

"He probably got sick of getting kicked.

"I'm not disappointed with the performance just the discipline at the end."

And that ill-discipline will cost the Mariners for their next game against Perth with Rogic, Hutchinson and striker Daniel McBreen - who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season - all unavailable on New Year's Eve.

But regardless of who plays, Arnold said his side will have to adjust better to having the other teams lift their game against them if they are to remain on top of the table.

After the Mariners won the previous clash between the two sides 7-2 last month, the struggling Sky Blues were much more resilient this time around and Arnold admitted they deserved their revenge.

"It wasn't one of our better displays but give credit to Sydney; I thought they played very well tonight. It was probably the best they've played all year," he said.

"We have to get used to the fact that we're sitting at the top of the table and teams will lift against us and perform better.

"If you watched Sydney last week against Newcastle and then today it's two different teams. We've got to stand up and handle the pressure a bit better.

"They (Sydney) were prepared for the fight and I think they were still hurting from the 7-2 loss and they wanted some revenge and they got it."

Arnold refused to blame his side's rushed preparation for the game as any excuse for their flat performance.

The Mariners side only arrived at the stadium less than an hour before kick-off after the team bus went to the wrong venue to pick them up.

Veteran defender Patrick Zwaanswijk missed the clash with a groin injury, with Arnold confirming the Dutchman would be sidelined for up to two weeks.