Hawke's Bay United coach Brett Angell had emphasised the need to win seven games out of nine a fortnight ago and his players eventually woke up to the idea in Wellington today.
The Bill Robertson-captained Bay United led Wellington Phoenix Reserves all the way but, mercifully, hung on to a 3-2 victory as the hosts threatened to steal a point at the Cake Tin in the ISPS Handa Premiership match.
It also was a display of philosophies as Angell's full press defence and counterattack side took on coach Chris Greenacre's possession-based youthful charges in the televised match played as a curtain raiser to the Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers encounter tonight.
Both premiership soccer sides showed enough potency to give coach Darije Kalezic and his A-League men something to chew on despite lapses on defence and unforced errors symptomatic of lower-tier footy.
The likes of Wee Nix skipper Sarpreet Singh, Oliver Whyte and James McGarry showed enough class and composure for Kalezic to make the commitment to invest in them in his squad.
However, the sore point may be that the Greenacre philosophy, even though his boys were guilty of getting too cute rather than pulling the trigger when in the stock exchange area, may not fit Kalezic's "direct" methods.
Singh's vision and dictatorship in the midfield demands maximum A-League exposure and not just a few minutes off the bench. If there was criticism, he wasn't taking the initiative to unleash shots at the goalmouth although captaincy may have had something to do with the pangs of unselfishness taking hold of him as he executed well-timed crosses to his teammates who sqaundered them from shooting distance.
For that matter, neither should it warrant Kalezic going fishing overseas for talent when the Wellington franchise's nursery is teeming with such talent.
Nevertheless, it was a day for Angell's men who showed a lot more fortitude in holding out a victory after building on a 1-0 halftime lead following a draw against last-placed Hamilton Wanderers in Napier last Sunday.
For Bay United, the signing of Ghanaian/American striker Samuel Adjei again proved pivotal in just his second game although Angell substituted him midway in the second half.
For both sides yesterday it was a case of missed opportunities with hesitation and poor intent in the final third.
Twice, in the first 20 minutes, Wesley Cain was guilty of trying to take too many yellow shirts on when he had Adjei looming alongside him, only to cough up possession.
Ditto winger Logan Rogerson for the Wee Nix even though he has all the raw attributes of making it to the A-League level as well.
The dead lock was broken 1-0 in the 22nd minute when referee Calvin Berg awarded a penalty kick after adjudging Nix defender Sam Philip to have shoved Adjei from behind inside the 18m box, following a cross from striker-cum-leftback Jorge Akers.
Centre midfielder Birhanu Taye stepped up to effortlessly stroke the ball into his left-hand corner to leave goal keeper Keegan Smith grasping thin air and show spot kicks aren't about brute force.
In the 40th minute, Adjei worked the ball up into the box, tapped it to Gavin Hoy but the ensuing cross to find Adam Thurston frustratingly found the feet of a defender.
The hosts dominated possession and time in opposition's half in the opening 45 minutes — 67-33 per cent and 58/42, respectively — but everything else was pretty much even, bar the scoreline.
Only a minute after play resumed in the second spell, rightback Hayden McHenery put a long ball through the rib of the park from about 10m inside his half after a surging run to find Hoy but it was too heavy and found Nix centreback Liam Wood instead.
However, keeper Smith showed why he was sent back from the A-League squad — and wasn't ready to start there in the first place — when he tried to get cute with the ball after Wood had passed it back to him inside the box.
Hoy was all over Smith like a cheap suit, dispossessing him after a twirl before pushing the ball into the open net to put the visitors up 2-0.
Stung into action, Singh deftly threaded the ball past Bay defenders into the box before cutting it back to Whyte in the 48th minute to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
No doubt Robertson had a few choice words for his Beefeaters and no points for guessing what Angell would have said after harping on all season about squandering leads.
Fortunately Bay United players didn't drop their shoulders. They restored the margin of their lead, 3-1, in the 53rd minute when Hoy took a few touches to keep defenders guessing on the left flank before cutting it back to the top of the 18m box for Thurston to drill it into his top left of the net, with as much accuracy and placement as Taye's penalty kick.
Cain got an opportunity to extend the lead within the next minute after Adjei's vision on the right flank but the winger pushed the ball wide of his right upright.
If Bay keeper Ruben Parker Hanks was having a siesta in the first half, he was certainly stretched in the 56th minute to thwart Whyte's pile driver after Singh again initiated another wave of attack.
The visitors counterattacked soon after. Keeper Smith lunged to his right upright after midfielder Alex Palezevic threatened to put the game to bed as the ball precariously curled away from the upright.
However, it was Singh who left Hanks stunned in the 61st minute to narrow the deficit to 3-2 after left winger McGarry surged from his half to the middle of the park to find Rogerson on the right flank. Rogerson pushed an oblique pass to Singh on the inside and the captain curled the ball into the net from the top of the box as Robertson could only look over his shoulder to see the ball thud into the net.
Robertson and Angell's screams were heard above the TV commentators when the hosts made a barrage of raids but luck kept the ball out of the net.
Regrettably the Bay engine room wasn't firing on all cylinders and that was putting immense pressure on the final third.
In the following few minutes Singh again terrorised the Magpies after Angell whipped out Adjei and Cain to inject home boys Bjorn Christensen and Karanjit Mandair. But Singh carried on, performing a pirouette-like move to beat Taye before putting Nix on the front foot.
Hanks was beaten in the 76th minute but his left upright came to the rescue after some dazzling skills saw Whyte hit the ball crisply from inside the box. Four minutes later his one-handed effort denied Nix an equaliser.
Mandair did some hard yards on the right flank to cut the ball back acutely from the goal line to Hoy but the finish was feeble and off target.
A flurry of substitutions followed, including Bay player Benjamin Lack, but the score remained in favour of the visitors.
Robertson's bodyguards in Graham Craven and McHenery are looking solid although it is expected that teenager Akers will take some time to adopt a defensive mindset after playing at the coalface like his former All Whites father, Marty, all his young life.