Wellington’s winless start to the A-League season has been compounded by the absence of disgruntled star playmaker Carlos Hernandez.

Still searching for their first win this season, Wellington now have off-field woes to add to their misery on it in the form of star playmaker Carlos Hernandez.

Hernandez flew home to Wellington on Thursday, hours before the Phoenix’s 1-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners at North Sydney Oval.

The Costa Rican international was reported to have left the squad disgruntled with the club over delays in brining his family to New Zealand.

Coach Ernie Merrick said after the Mariners game there was some truth to the reports, however his main concern was the recurrence of a thigh injury which forced Hernandez to miss the 4-2 loss to Perth on December 6.

The 31-year-old returned for last weekend’s loss to the Brisbane, but Merrick didn’t want to risk him in Thursday’s game, three days out from Sunday’s home fixture against Sydney FC.

“We brought him over thinking he was right but his quad wasn’t right…he wouldn’t have been able to play two games in four days, so we didn’t play him for that reason,” Merrick said.

“The other thing is he seems to have an issue regarding his contract, which really surprises me because I know the club are working really hard to get his children passports and visas to get out here.

“I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it in the next couple of days.”

Despite missing the playmaker, the Phoenix weren’t lacking in attack, firing a barrage of strikes at the Mariners goal, only to be denied by a standout display from keeper Liam Reddy.

“We played pretty well without him,” Merrick conceded.

“You can’t have a team built around one player.”

Ninth-placed Phoenix have so far had 53 shots on target this season, third only to top-dogs Brisbane (57) and Melbourne Victory (54) in creating chances.

But while only managing to find the back of the net nine times in 10 games, Merrick remained hopeful the goals would come.

“The optimism is that if we keep creating chances, by the law of averages and numbers, it’s got to go our way,” he said.

“I think the only way is drilling it into them at training and coaching it so much that it becomes second nature, it’s reflexive.

“The boys tell me that they’ve never practised shooting so much in their lives.

“Practice makes perfect, as they say.”