It was a day of unusually tight scorelines in most fixtures at Wembley Park on Saturday in the men's and women's local leagues, with some unexpected results and a few typical blowouts to round out the day.
In the men's league, the opening round saw Castlecliff United hosted Marist Celtic and ultimately lost 3-1. United performed well to hold Celtic to a reasonable score in a match in which Celtic missed several great opportunities to increase their goal difference.
Wanganui Collegiate walked away 5-1 victors after a great showing against the Marist Casuals. In what was a game of missed opportunities, and goals against the run of play, the injury-stricken Casuals were unable to make the most of owning possession for most of the match, with Collegiate using their pace to beat the defenders and put themselves in on goal.
The Total Automotive Wanganui City Hammers kept their three-point buffer at the top of the table after a resounding 7-1 victory over the Castlecliff Braves. Braves will be reeling, as they surely had the belief they could have got some points from this match, but again, the Hammers showed there's a reason why they sit atop the table, sporting just a single draw in an undefeated season to date.
The second round of the day saw the Wanganui City Reserves go up against the Marist Bhoys, in what turned out to be one of the more closely fought battles of the day. Both teams came out and played a fair, physical game, with neither willing to let the other walk away with an easy win. City went ahead after about 20 minutes of play, only for the Bhoys to strike back within minutes to lock the match up. With the match looking like it was heading for a draw, young Jack Jonas put the Bhoys ahead, securing himself a brace for the day and three points for Marist with 30 seconds remaining.
The City Thirsties were unlucky not to walk away with a momentous draw against the Wanganui Athletic Reserves when they had a goal ruled out after a controversial offside call. The Thirsties rattled the Reserves from the off, going ahead early in the match, but Athletic managed to regain some composure and put away another two goals to give them the lead, although they were unable to dominate in their usual fashion against a gritty Thirsties side. The final result was 2-1, which was a great result against the Reserves, who have punished some of the struggling sides this season.
The Athletic Weekenders were also unlucky not to steal some points from Castlecliff St Anthony's, who are trying to straighten out a wobbly finish to their season. Two goals to Jacob Weber and a goal by Neihana Kahl was enough for the Saints to get up over the plucky Weekenders, who would have been disappointed not to walk away with at least a draw.
With just two games left in this round of play, little separates three teams in the hunt for a top-eight position, and with sides definitely hungry to secure their berth, it's shaping up to be a competitive race to avoid the cut.
In the women's fixtures on Saturday, Wanganui High School kept their grip on the lead with a 6-0 win over the Clive Barritt Builders Marist Women. High School will be keen to keep collecting points while the Wanganui City Women sit out a few matches due to an unlucky run of consecutive postponements and will be wanting to put a big gap between the two teams.
In the club derby between the Castlecliff Saints and the Scrappers, it was a one-sided affair, with the Scrappers coming out 12-0 victors over their clubmates.
While the scoreline could be seen as demoralising, it will be far from that.
These two teams share a great camaraderie on and off the field, with bucketloads of club spirit. The points for the Scrappers put them in second place, just two points off current leaders High School, with four rounds of play left in the season.