Ask Kenny Willox and he'll tell you when it comes to sport you can never say never.
"It's never over but, I think, we'll be playing for pride now ," says Willox before Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United kick off at 2pm against the Eastern Suburbs in the national summer league encounter tomorrow.The 18-year-old says the Chris Greatholder/Bill Robertson co-coached unit needs to do markedly better in week 15 than they have done in their previous two encounters.
"We have shut down the ball quicker than we have been and playing out from the back — you know, the stuff we'd been doing at the start of the season but which slipped away after a couple of losses."
He echoes the sentiments of even the most ardent fan and has come to the realisation Bay United need to go out on a wing and a prayer to keep their playoff hopes alive.
They succumbed 4-3 to Southern United after leading 3-1 into the second half at Park Island, Napier, last Sunday.
The fourth-placed Lily Whites will be hell bent on collecting three points at Riverhills Park as the premiership playoffs beckon. They have Tasman United, Southern United and Hamilton Wanderers — all on 19 points — nipping at their heels.
"We're expecting them to go out as hard as they can because of their position and that they're trying to stay in the playoffs race," says the midfielder of the defending champions who drew 3-all against Bay United at Bluewater Stadium before Christmas.
Willox has come off the bench three times this campaign in his debut season — about 25 minutes in the 3-1, away loss to Tasman United; about 20 minutes in the 2-1 victory over the Canterbury United Dragons on the road and 15 minutes last Sunday.
The teenager, who delivers pizza to ensure he has enough time to invest in footy, is banking on more game time, if not a memorable starting XI debut with five weeks of play left before the semifinals.
"Most people will be focusing on other leagues now because we're probably out of the playoffs equation," he says.
Willox is switching from the Building King Havelock North Wanderers — in the Central Federation — to Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers to hone his skills in the top-tier Central League this winter.
The Havelock North High School graduate reveals the sombre mood in the changing sheds didn't require any interpretation but Bay United remain adamant about spoiling the party for others should they miss the cull.
Bay United sit on the eighth rung of the premiership ladder on 15 points.