HIT the canvas tomorrow and who knows what it'll take to get up again by the time next season rolls around.
That's the harsh reality facing Hawke's Bay United and Team Wellington before they play in the ASB Premiership football semifinal in Napier tomorrow.
It's a deviation from previous home-and-away playoff formats, thus the intensity that'll demand emotions be kept on a leash.
That aside, play all the mind games they want but it'll be impossible to park the thought of an O-League berth next summer.
The Brett Angell-coached Bay United have the insurance policy to secure an O-League position by virtue of their second placing on the premiership ladder but winning against Team Wellington tomorrow is a must in the televised knockout game that kicks off at 4.35pm at Park Island.
Conversely, Angell's counterpart, Matt Calcott, and his men are smarting after the Bay tamed them 2-0 at David Farrington Park two rounds ago.
Nothing makes a team more dangerous than when they are at the cusp of losing their O-League berth. Team Wellington made their debut in the O-League with Auckland City FC this summer in Suva, Fiji.
"We just have to do it the hard way now," Calcott had declared, rolling the dice straight after the tempestuous loss on February 21, making it abundantly clear they intended to beat everyone in the playoffs to earn a direct ticket to retaining their O-League status.
Unaware they were to reload against Bay United, Wellington and fourth qualifiers Canterbury United's only preoccupation at the time was to avoid the Auckland City juggernaut in the jostle for premiership playoff berths.
The visitors have exorcised their demons, wreaking havoc, 6-1, on the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in their derby last round.
For Angell and his men, coming off a dead rubber 2-1 win over Waitakere United here last Sunday, another chapter of history awaits, albeit with predominantly new personnel from last summer.
All that means tomorrow will be a humdinger and it's hard to imagine any football-loving fan won't be there to see the outcome.
Bay United operations manager Matt Hastings says the franchise has promoted the game from every avenue possible, including players visiting schools.
Vice-captain Cory Chettleburgh, returning from a cumulative four yellow-card match suspension, pays tribute to a Bay region caught up in the politics of two summers gone when Angell assumed control from Chris Greatholder.
"The fans have been very good this [season] and the Hawke's Bay community has got behind us," says the 24-year-old centre midfielder from Palmerston North who plied his trade with Wairarapa United in the Lotto Central League last winter.
"It's our biggest game so a few more people through the gates will be good for the club but if they don't come then it won't be the end of the world."
Chettleburgh believes their victory over Wellington last month is best forgotten because a lot has changed since.
"They will have a better balance to their team and a point to prove so we should stick to what we know and if we do that everything should be all right."
Bay striker Sam Mason-Smith's inability to put the ball away last Sunday was a worry although it couldn't have been easy to lift yourself for a game that had little riding on it.
Chettleburgh says there's no need to fret because Mason-Smith simply didn't take his chances.
"The way we play we create a lot of chances so it's definitely a case of taking them. If we create 5 or 6 then we should take at least three."
He emphasises there's no pressure on anyone who misses a scoring opportunity, although you wouldn't guess it when Angell barks instructions from his dog box at the height of play.
If anything, Chettleburgh champions the rapport he has with Mason-Smith.
"I like getting on the front foot and counterattacking with Sam because he knows how each other plays."
With Zane Sole serving a match suspension after picking his fourth yellow last Sunday it is timely with Chettleburgh's return to the fold.
"We'll miss Zane because he was excellent last Sunday. He was very unlucky to get a yellow because it was a dodgy decision from all accounts," he says, although it begs the question why he took the field in a dead rubber when logic suggested he should have been wrapped in cotton wool for the playoffs when all yellow cards were going to be scratched.
Like Sole, he brings an in-your-face mentality to the engine room although some fans will attest to having jangled nerves when yellow cards are looming.
No stranger to some ribbing from the balcony brigade at David Farrington Park, he doesn't see it that way.
"If there's a 50-50 position you have to go in strong as possible to give yourself a 100 per cent chance of winning the ball."
Needless to say, Bay United have the depth on their bench to match all teams perhaps bar Auckland.
There's little chance of Bay players acting to the SkySport cameras tomorrow, sporting snazzy hairdos that may detract from the all-important job.
"Tom Biss will be the only one to bring his trimmer out, I think. Maybe Birhanu Taye will sort out his afro a little," says a jovial Chettleburgh of the coalface players.
Before making his debut this summer, Chettleburgh played for Team Wellington for three seasons but mutually parted ways with the capital franchise.
"I've really enjoyed my season with Hawke's Bay and learned a lot from Brett as well as my time with a good group of lads," says the bloke who made his debut with the defunct Youngheart Manawatu in 2006-07.
He's at pains to stress that the Bay boys have been getting the best out of each other the entire season, not just because it's semifinals now.
His parents, Simonne and Tony Chettleburgh, have supported him throughout his career since he followed his older brother, Josh, 25, to the football park as a 4-year-old.
"Josh was a soccer player so I'd got to every game he played. I got into a couple of his trainings and got straight into it."
It wasn't until he got into the New Zealand Under-17 squad at the age of 14 that coach Colin Tu'ua spotted him and helped him hone his skills.
From 2010-12, Chettleburgh made his first foray into football overseas, plying his trade for Sparta Rotterdam and WHC Wezep (Wezep Hattemerbroek Combination) in the Netherlands.
"It was Holland that I for the first time saw the coach-to-team philosophy," he says, revealing the country embraced an attacking but keeping the ball style of play that marries comfortably with Angell's possession-based, counterattacking template.
Chettleburgh is open to opportunities to graduate to the higher level in New Zealand, such as A-league, but doesn't think it's a given.
"I'm not saying it should or will happen.
"I'm just excited to see where it takes me," says the midfielder who this week started his new job of head coach of juniors (U15s) at the Paul Ifill Football Academy in Masterton.
From the ASB premiership playoffs at the weekend:
Auckland City FC v Canterbury Utd: Today, 4.35pm kick off at Kiwitea Street, Auckland, live on Sky Sport 4.
Season head to head:
Rd 3 (Nov 29): Auckland 4 Canterbury Utd 1.
Rd 12 (Feb 24): Canterbury Utd 1 Auckland 3.
Auckland premiership position: 1st (38 pts)
Form: W W W W W.
TAB odds: $1.14.
Squad (from): 2. Marko Dordevic, 3. Takuya Iwata, 4. Mario Bilen, 5. Angel Berlanga, 6. Jesse Edge, 8. Michael Den Heijer, 10. Ryan De Vries, 11. Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, 14. Clayton Lewis, 17. Joao Moreira, 18. Danyon Drake (GK), 19. Micah Lea'alafa, 20. Emiliano Tade, 22. Andrew Milne, 24. Jacob Spoonley/Diego Rivas (RGK), 25. Fabrizio Tavano.
Suspended: Daewook Kim.
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx.
Canterbury premiership position: 4th (26 pts).
Form: W W L D W.
TAB odds: $10.
Squad: 1. Ruben Parker (GK), 2. Dan Terris, 4. Julyan Collett, 5. Tom Schwarz, 7. Atkin Kaua, 8. Aaron Clapham, 9. Michael White, 10. Gary Ogilvie, 11. Juan Chang, 12. Jesse Dingjan, 14. Andre de Jong, 16. Brock Messenger, 17. Aaron Spain, 18. Andreas Wilson, 20. Angus Kilkolly, 22. Coey Turipa (RGK).
Coach: Willy Gerdsen.
Hawke's Bay Utd v Team Wellington: Tomorrow, 4.35pm kick off at Park Island, Napier, live on Sky Sport 3.
Referee: John Rowbury.
Ast refs 1 & 2: Mark Rule, Matt Stoneman.
Fourth official: Antony Riley.
Season head to head:
Rd 7 (Jan 10): HB Utd 2 Team Wgtn 2.
Rd 13 (Feb 21): Team Wgtn 0 HB Utd 2.
HB Utd premiership position: 2nd (30pts).
Form: L W W W W.
TAB odds: $2.20.
Squad: 1. Josh Hill (GK), 2. Sean Liddicoat, 3. Kohei Matsumoto, 4. Fin Milne, 5. Harrison Nash, 7. Cory Chettleburgh, 8. Tom Biss, 9. Ross Willox, 12. Cheauxyan Maukau, 15. Sam Mason-Smith, 17. Andrew Blake, 18. Martin Canales, 19. Birhanu Taye, 21. Fabien Kurimata, 23. Paul Ifill, 25. Kyle Baxter (RGK).
Suspended: Zane Sole.
Coach: Brett Angell.
Player/ast coach: Paul Ifill.
Team Wgtn premiership position: 3rd (27pts).
Form: W W W L W.
TAB odds: $2.30.
Squad: 1. Scott Basalaj (GK), 3. Steven Gulley, 4. Anthony Hobbs, 5. Bill Robertson, 6. Chris Bale, 7. Leonardo Villa, 8. Cole Peverley, 9. Tom Jackson, 10. Luis Corrales, 11. Mario Barcia, 12. Andrew Bevin, 13. Alex Feneridis, 15. Magno Viera, 17. Fergus Neil, 18. Saul Halpin, 20. Taylor Schrijvers, 22. Alex Carr (RGK).
Suspended: Ben Harris.
Coach: Mat Calcott.
Player/ast coach: Bill Robertson.