If the lynch mob at Park Island was looking for a scapegoat they didn't have to look far because Blues goalkeeper Ruben Parker Hanks had made enough howlers to have planted an asterisk next to the football match this season as one to forget.

Not that the talented Conroy Removals Napier City Rovers player was hiding behind his protective mask amid taunts from the odd spectator in the pavilion but yesterday well and truly belonged to the bloke who had slipped on the gloves between the sticks at the other end of Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, to help engineer Stop Out's 5-3 victory.

Visiting goalkeeper Chris Campbell was easily the man of the match on a waterlogged pitch despite the Napier club volunteer members' sterling effort to drain prominent puddles although a docile-looking surface showed enough splashes to suggest players deserved some sympathy.

Stop Out were informed on Saturday morning of the water bomb that had taken Hawke's Bay hostage but coach Chris Sambrooke and his men decided to travel that afternoon because they weren't going to receive any refunds from the pre-booked motel. It turned out to be a three-point decision for the Wellingtonians who stunned the hosts with a 4-1 lead into halftime in yet another season-defining Lotto Central League clash.

Advertisement

Sambrooke agreed Campbell had delivered yet again for Stop Out.

"Today he was a class above - everything he did he did well," he said, revealing they stuck to a counter-attacking formula that had yielded a 3-1 victory in Wellington.

"Napier are still the benchmark in this league. They look to go forward and build higher up the park and commit numbers into their attack to try to overrun whoever they are playing," said Sambrooke, who felt Stop Out put up the storm shutters admirably before feeding Micky Malivuk, Andrew Abba and Luis Corrales on the counter.

That made it hard for the Rovers to commit more numbers at the coal face because Stop Out had the electric pace to hit straight back after winning possession.

That is where Hanks should be cut some slack as a raft of Blues players either showed poor anticipation on defence on a day when the ball tended to skid to a stop on the saturated patches or simply failed to go up in set-piece play to defend, forcing the goalkeeper to run out of his sanctuary.

The second half for Stop Out was simply about playing more direct in the face of a stiff wind.

Not ready for a crown this winter on account of a loss to bottom-placed Lower Hutt, Sambrooke said they were out of the equation but the goal to finish in the top three after a 30-year exile remained.

"The Greeks will be happy today but they still have to come to our place to win the league so we'll be ready," he said, wishing the Rovers all the best.

Advertisement

Wellington Olympic are in pole position on 36 points now, albeit with just one game to play although the Rovers have two but are five points adrift.

That means Miramar Rangers, with three games in hand, have a sniff should Olympic stumble.

Blues player/coach Bill Robertson said conditions were tricky but agreed they probably should have adapted quicker.

"We've made some errors there, basic ones that has cost us goals," Robertson lamented, putting some of Stop Out's goals to half chances.

A disappointing start had given them too much of a mountain to climb but in the second half their character and resilience surfaced to create enough chances to win but alas it wasn't to be.

"If you concede five goals then you probably don't deserve to win the game."

Robertson said Hanks was fantastic all season but agreed there was more to their shortcomings than just the keeper's disappointment.

"Most of us didn't start the game particularly well and have put ourselves under pressure."

Stop Out, he felt, worked hard for each other as a physical side on the platform of some classy footballers on the counter attack.

"Their keeper's been pretty tidy and has kept us out," he said, adding all they could do now was win their remaining two games.

Abba drew first blood in the third minute before right wing Luis Corrales made it 2-0 in the 13th.

Defender Lewis Francis made it 3-0 in the 23rd minute before Stephen Hoyle pulled one back, 3-1, from a 29th-minute penalty kick.

Corrales made it a jaw-dropping 4-1 in the 39th minute before Josh Stevenson narrowed it to 4-2 in the 62nd. Steven Guley extended the lead to 5-2 in the 74th minute before Rovers defender Finlay Milne's consolation goal in the 86th minute in what was after all a frenzied patch of catch-up footy.