Bittersweet. Too little, too late. What if.
Take your pick, but that's what dead rubber tastes and feels like.
Relegated Cru Bar Maycenvale United registered a 3-2 victory over a mid-table Petone in Wellington in their Lotto Central League soccer match on Saturday.
But, to put it in Vale coach Dion Adams' words, "a win's a win".
Furthermore, the men in orange gave their young guns a go at Endeavour Park, after the game was moved from Petone's soggy turf to the Western Suburb venue.
No Rafael De Gregorio or Jared Ott, Admir Balicevac and Regan Steele who headed back to their American university commitments a few weeks ago.
"Both teams had chances to score more goals," Adams said. "It was end-to-end stuff and a good game.
"In the last 10 minutes we had more one-on-one chances but so did they," Adams said, pleased to have avenged a first-round 3-0 defeat in Hastings.
Midfielder Joshua Margetts rifled a 30m shot to the top right of the net for the visitors' first.
The hosts equalised but striker Jared Bloor scored a runaway goal to put Vale 2-1 up.
Petone weren't done, hitting back to level terms.
But the visitors had the last say when striker Joachim Rande headed in a well-timed cross from left back Nick Lucas for the winner.
With seven points and just one game to play, Vale have no hope of leapfrogging Wellington United.
Adams took heart from the result, believing it was a reaffirmation the Hastings club, after two seasons in the premier winter league in the Central/Capital Football region, was heading in the right direction.
Nurturing home-grown talent is its philosophy, although Adams injected himself into the engine room for 90 minutes due to a lack in depth.
He is all for the launching of a Central Football-heavy Federation League next winter that will beckon teams from Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu and Gisborne.
"I'll support it but it's up to our club's committee to decide if we should field a team in the Fed League," he said.
The cost of competing in such a league will require clubs to have dispensable funds because of the large travel expenses.
It will require teams to travel longer distances to New Plymouth, although a team from Gisborne will be hit harder in the pocket than one from the Bay. Strategically, Manawatu sides will find themselves as the hub.
For instance, Bay teams can agree to meet Taranaki sides at a halfway venue such as Palmerston North.
Conversely, teams from Gisborne can meet a Palmy side in the Bay to share the burden of cost and fatigue.
Needless to say, logic will be the common denominator to make a Federation League successful.