It was a Saturday of derby, catch-up games and avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon in the Pacific Premiership.
No doubt, while going through the motions, most coaches are thinking of the repercussions of the Central Federation League which will kick off next winter to embrace other catchment regions such as Taranaki, Manawatu and Gisborne.
Geon Dale 2 Dale AFC 2
Locked 0-0 at the breather, it was a prime time for the predominantly youthful Taradale AFC to kick their superior derby rivals in the soft underbelly.
Defending champions Geon Taradale, who have effectively conceded the title to Jennian Homes Team Gisborne after the previous round's drubbing in Napier, drew first blood when Chris McIvor broke the deadlock in the second spell.
The Jamie Hall-coached Dale AFC equalised with a Tony Parkinson goal.
Daniel Ball then set fire to Geon's tail with a 2-1 lead.
The favourites sweated it out but it took a veteran off the bench, Kerry Bartlett, to level terms with about 10 minutes remaining.
Hall and Geon player/co-coach Warren Gilbertson agreed it was exciting end-to-end footy.
A rash of injuries at the wrong time, Hall said, and the way "things conspired against us" meant his troops - the No 1 flag flyers for the club with Central League aspirations - won't be able to eclipse Geon in second place.
Gisborne aren't going up to Central League and neither are an ageing Geon, thus robbing Dale AFC of that privilege.
"We [Dale club] had two teams in the same league and it was difficult to manage separate teams," Hall said.
"It's a shame [not to go for the premier winter league in the Central region] but that's life. We'll come back again."
He lauded the concept of a Fed League, saying it would benefit ASB Premiership franchises such as Hawke's Bay United and YoungHeart Manawatu for them to embrace clubs from here right up to Gisborne and across to New Plymouth.
Reflecting on Saturday's game, Gilbertson was blunt: "We were robbed, mate.
"Their first goal was five [metres] offside," he lamented, adding they lost an official after a ref's assistant got injured.
They were without veteran defenders Robbie Parker, holidaying in Thailand, and Perry Cotton nursing an injury.
"Kerry did particularly well coming off the bench," he said of Bartlett, who was enigmatically left out from the match against Gisborne.
Geon play Cru Bar Maycenvale United in the Fed Cup (knockout) semifinal this Saturday while Dale AFC will travel to Gisborne.
Port Hill 1 Rangers 2
Someone was always going to be left holding the wooden spoon after Ericksen Honda Port Hill United and Western Rangers were locked 1-1 at halftime.
Ethan Kitt put the visitors ahead at Marewa Park, Napier, but the Murray Loader-coached hosts hit back a minute later from Ben Goodridge as the men in green "went to sleep".
Luke Woon put Rangers 2-1 up midway through the second spell for the victory.
"We are now three points ahead and have a game left against Havelock North next Saturday," Rangers player/coach Nathan Ross said, relieved to have staved off the wooden-spoon title.
Blooding youngsters and injuries to key players at crucial times made life difficult for the Hastings side.
"We definitely improved in the past few weeks so we deserved the win," Ross said.
A dejected Loader said his players couldn't buy a goal to save themselves.
"We had so many opportunities and shots but we couldn't score. It's pretty much the way of our season."
He had mixed emotions about wearing the cellar dweller choker, reflecting on what-ifs, bemoaning losses by a goal or stalemates.
"We'll just have to take it on the chin and come back next year," Loader said.
Gisborne 1 Vale 0
Gisborne can celebrate after beating Vale 1-0 at Childer's Road Reserve yesterday.
The sides were scoreless after the first 45 minutes but things looked ominous for the Ritchie Howard-coached visitors when their captain, Mark Saunders, hobbled off in the 72nd minute.
A minute later Gisborne centreback Josh Bates nodded in the winner from a corner kick.
"Our captain had rolled his ankle while we were warming up but it got really swollen during the game," Howard said.
The Gissy management, he said, lauded his young troops.
"They said it was the best game of football and opponents they had played against this season."
Howard said Gisborne had started their premiership celebrations after beating defending champions Geon Taradale 4-1 the previous Saturday in Napier.