When a poker-faced Western Suburbs coach Ben Sippola had wished Napier City Rovers all the best after a Chatham Cup flogging at Park Island a fortnight ago there was a glazed look in his eyes.
"We play Napier in two weeks at home so we'll give them a challenge," Sippola had declared after the 4-1 thumping in the national knockout competition.
The Suburbs lent credence to their word when they spanked the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Blues 4-2 in round 15 of the Central League match at Endeavour Park, Wellington, today.
While Rovers assistant coach Stu James felt funnier things had happened in the beautiful game it's fair to assume no one is laughing now as Suburbs have put a huge dent on the Napier club's double league/cup aspirations.
Suburbs have leapfrogged the Blues to the top of the table on 33 points with both sides having won 10 games each but the leaders have lost two and drawn three while the Rovers have four and one, respectively.
"We were guilty of not taking our chances when we've created three really good chances in the first half," James lamented after the visitors took a 1-0 lead into halftime, to a Jonny McNamara volley from a header following a free kick in the 16th minute.
Suburbs striker Noah Billingsley levelled, 1-1, in the 47th minute to trigger off a goal-scoring spree. Marko Stamenic hit a low drive between the legs of Blues keeper Joshua Hill in the 53rd minute before Logan Rogerson found the net with his head from a corner kick three minutes later and Ryan Feutz counterattack goal in the 76th minute resulted from the Rovers pushing up the park to play catch-up footy.
"It seems as if they've been given a rev up at halftime and they've come out at halftime to be a little bit more direct," James said, adding the hosts had expanded more energy than the Blues.
He felt the first goal "laziness", the second from a keeping error, the third one was earned and the final was expected when the Rovers had pulled out all the holds.
Suburbs now face bottom-placed Wairarapa United and Wellington United before signing off with Stop Out Sports Club and should, barring a huge upset, clinch the crown.
The Rovers have a relatively harder task, hosting mid-table campaigners Miramar Rangers and Lower Hutt City before closing their account against third-placed Wellington Olympic.
James was hoping the troops would keep their heads up with the cup quarterfinal beckoning against Albany United on August 3-4.
He said they had a squad of 17 adroit players and everyone had to put their hand up at training to show they wanted to be at the park.