No one at the Phoenix is safe from the Mark Rudan hairdryer when it's needed, with English veteran Steven Taylor on the receiving end after a their escape act against Central Coast Mariners.
Such are the heightened expectations in Wellington this season, coach Rudan was quick to pick holes in the 3-2 win at Westpac Stadium, a result that lifts them to fifth, 10 points clear of seventh-placed Newcastle.
Ending a four-season finals drought is looming into sight but Rudan won't get carried away with half a season to play, saying they'll need better than the poor first-half display that left them trailing the winless Mariners 2-0.
The red card shown to Kye Rowles soon after the resumption handed a lifeline to the hosts, who scored twice through Roy Krishna penalties before David Williams' winner.
"You probably didn't want to be there at halftime," Rudan said of a blast he delivered to his players.
"I don't normally do that either but they needed a bit of a wake-up call."
The harsh words continued after fulltime, with Rudan singling out long-serving Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor for a sharp message.
Taylor conceded an early penalty when he draped his arms around Mariners striker Matt Simon, who coolly converted from the spot.
Rudan said Taylor's method was a habit which they'd worked tirelessly to eradicate.
"And you're talking about a Premier League player, who's played over 200 games," Rudan said.
"I expected more from Steven and that's the first thing I said to him after the game - 'someone of your experience, you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself up. It's very important that you do that ASAP'."
Rudan isn't daunted by a potentially season-defining schedule over the next month.
Their next four games are against the four top teams, starting away to Melbourne Victory next week.
Rudan was buoyed by results against those teams during their current eight-match unbeaten run, having drawn 1-1 with both Victory and leaders Perth Glory while beating Sydney FC 3-1.
The only setback against a team above them came in the early-season 2-0 loss away to Melbourne City, when the Phoenix were set up more defensively.
"We'll take anyone on, we don't fear anyone," Rudan said.