It wasn't supposed to be so easy.

Devon Homes Wanganui Athletic cruised to a 5-0 win over New Plymouth Rangers on Saturday earning a chance to replace them in second spot in the Lotto Federation League.

It was the fourth match between to the two rivals this season with a win each in two previous league meetings and Rangers edging their Chatham Cup match.

But this was not the thriller the previous three matches have been as Rangers turned up to Wembley Park in body only.

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Perhaps the disappointment of dropping out of the title race last weekend with a loss to AFC Havelock North was lingering.

Athletic are now just two points behind Rangers in third but with the New Plymouth side on a bye next week Athletic can jump ahead with a win over Massey Men's 1sts in Palmerston North.

"I don't feel that this is as strong a team as they sent down last time," Athletic coach Jason King said.

"But I'm not taking away from the fact that we actually played well too.

"You could easily play down to a certain level when the opposition's not playing the same but the boys were certainly up for it. We wanted this game more than they did."

The scoring came through a hat-trick to Jude Hiri and a brace for Scott Burney to break his scoring drought.

It was Burney who opened the Athletic's account in the 12th minute when Oliver Carter rolled a ball across goal for him to tap in, albeit at the second attempt..

Athletic we fast on attack and regularly had the Rangers defence stretched and scrambling to contain them. Ultimately they couldn't.

Hiri doubled Athletic's lead in the 24th minute with a similar goal before he made it 3-0 seven minutes later.

Livewire Quinn Mailman came off towards the end of the half with a knee injury following a heavy collision with the Rangers keeper.

It was Mailman's first match back after being overseas for a month and King will be hoping he will be okay for the season's remaining two games.

"Hopefully it's not too serious because that'd be a real shame," he said. "He was nice and bright and sharp."

Hiri sealed his hat-trick five minutes into the second half with Burney claiming his second in the 71st minute.

The two second half goals came with ease and Athletic really should have scored more with simple chance squandered at the end.

Still, a five-goal margin is more than they would ever have expected.

"We want second so every game we play, we play like we want second and they didn't play like they wanted second today," King said.

"They really didn't look like they were here which is strange because they're usually such a strong, determined opponent.

"It was one of the things that we do so well. We simply don't give up. It doesn't matter what the game is or who we play or what the scoreline is at the time."

One noticeable difference this time was Athletic were able to get on top from the outset rather than having to chase the game.

"We did start well. I think just about every time we've played these guys we've had to come from behind.

"In a way I'm a little disappointed we didn't put more away in the second half."

Ryan Holden played a hand in several of Athletic's goals. Photo/ Stuart Munro
Ryan Holden played a hand in several of Athletic's goals. Photo/ Stuart Munro

The win also means Athletic will finish the season unbeaten in the league at Wembley Park, their only loss coming in a cup game.

"We can lock that one away," King said. "And it is something we spoke about at the start of the season.

"We want to make Wembley our fortress. We want to make this turf here our hallowed ground and they've fought for it all season so that's been awesome."

Keeper Matthew Calvert also earned a deserved clean sheet, King said.

"He's been aching for one. I know that's going to mean a helluva lot for him."

And Burney's long awaited return to the scoresheet was also pleasing.

"We all new he had the capability. He does the work week in week out. It just wasn't there. That is great for him to be able to have that because I know it's been bugging him."

Athletic will be expected to get three points next week before they head to Napier for a "home" match against Gisborne Thistle in which a win could seal second.

"That will be the tough one but it's also the game that will mean a lot for everybody."