You've heard it and read it all before — when they are planting it in the net they're up there with the demigods in the beautiful game but miss a few and they plummet to the basement of chokers.
Yes, strikers, my friends, and no one knows that better than the Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United foragers who kick off at 1pm against Tasman United during week 12 of the national summer league in Nelson tomorrow.Co-coaches Chris Greatholder and Bill Robertson can resort to the anthem of "creating more opportunities" than the opposition all season but those notes started sounding out of tune when Bay United succumbed to their fourth consecutive defeat — 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix Reserves at Napier's Park Island last Sunday.
Ultimately, scoring isn't just a habit but a game within a game — one of confidence where the law of averages viciously kick in.
Perhaps the best way to capture that mental fortitude is to juxtapose it with putting in golf. If you haven't got the ball rolling past the hole on the green then you never had a chance of dropping in at all.
In football, if you're not shooting then you haven't got a chance. Consequently when you're not on that scoring plane then there's hesitation in the desire to pull the trigger on entering the stock exchange and more an inclination to help set up someone else.
Invariably strikers who dare to find the net tend break out of a cocoon. They'll tell you the swish of the ball hitting the nylon enclosure becomes more a sense of satisfaction rather than relief.
No one knows that better than Ahinga Selemani who has been around the block.
"It was unfortunate in the weekends and the past few weekends but, you know, the way we've trained in the past two days [Tuesday regular, Wednesday gym, Thursday full session] we've been more direct in terms of focusing in the final third so in the weekend we can only hope the score will be different," says Selemani as seventh-placed Bay United face the hosts who are perched a point above them on the premiership ladder.
It hasn't been an easy run for the visitors whose losing streak started on the road against Hamilton Wanderers just before Christmas. Losses to powerhouses Team Wellington and Auckland City FC followed.
Mercifully Bay United sit four points adrift of third placed Eastern Suburbs as leaders City and Team Wellington threaten to run away to the playoffs on 25 and 19 points, respectively.
"Eventually those chances turn into goals, I think," says Selemani who has bagged seven to date. "As frustrating as it is you just have to continue growing and, eventually, the goals will come."
The 23-year-old, who was born in Canada but raised in Michigan in the United States since he was 12, reveals there has been more intent in the crossing and finishing.
"We just had to make sure everyone is confident as well and make sure everyone is striking at goal."
Selemani says there's a propensity to over analyse in such situations because the focus should be in the process rather than the finished article.
"When you're in front of the goal you have to make sure you put the ball in the frame to do your best to create chances as a group and, eventually, those chances fall.
"Unfortunately, for us, in the games recently they have been off target or outside the goal," he laments. "Whatever the case may be, we've been unfortunate not to get those goals that we were getting earlier on in the season."
For Selemani it's about making the appropriate mental punctuations in the final third — creating space, taking stock of the defender for the right pass or making a timely run.
"Just make sure strike the ball where you want to or make sure you set up the teammate where you want to," he elaborates. "You can't control what happens after that."
More often than not it's mission accomplished but there are times when a defender chucks a fly in the ointment.
"Football's a tricky game in the sense that you can only focus on what you can do so, for me, keep hitting the target and keep focusing on the goal and to keep doing whatever the team need me to do."
In fairness, Selemani brings electric pace and explosiveness at the coal face with sporadic surges and clinical crosses while ruffling the feathers of defenders.
So where is the balance between keeping the heart rate on a leash and pulling that trigger?
"Some players will be a little unfamiliar with getting into those zones but, I think, the most important thing to do is to keep cool and pick a spot."
A chuckling Selemani isn't shy to talk to himself.
"I know it sounds a bit funny but in front of a defender I'm already speaking in my head."
That's tantamount to shimmying the defender to the right and then the left before unleashing, something he puts down to muscle memory.
"It's not really anything new [because] you know what to do in these situations."
Selemani says no one had to say much to each other before their post-mortem ritual early this week.
"We feel like we have a chip on the shoulder and we've definitely trained hard so I've seen the reaction and think the guys will be up for it."
The frustrated co-coaches have served enough statistical sandwiches to their charges to chew on but remain upbeat on account of the good things they've seen and are keeping the faith that players will incrementally add value to that talent pool.
Bay United had Tasman's measure, 2-0, at Bluewater Stadium in week two in November but they have four wins compared with the visitors' three and one fewer loss to the latter.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, Selemani believes Bay United's style means they can take the game to the hosts' surge of latent energy but it's imperative the visitors focus on their processes.
"It's not the time to panic or freak out because we have enough older guys in the team to guide us through ... so I don't think there's too much to change," he says, mindful the onus of making changes to the personnel rests with the co-mentors.