GJ Gardner Wanganui Athletic have shook off the disppointment of their loss to rivals New Plymouth Rangers in the best way possible with a 1-0 boilover against defending Lotto Federation League champions Palmerston North Marist on Saturday.
The mid-year strain that can lay low even the best teams and Marist, despite sitting second on the table with a 7-0-2 record and coming off a 7-1 thrashing of Palmerston North Boys High, had a disrupted week with no training sessions and were missing several squad members for their trip to Wembley Park.
In fact, it was noted by Athletic coach Jason King that without Marist's expat contingent of Whanganui's Josh Smith, James Oxtoby, Jamie Lambe and current Collegiate pupil Corbyn Charles, they would have been unlikely to have a playing XI at all.
"Yes, I feel for them in that they had personnel issues, but we've had that ourselves," King said.
"That doesn't mean we weren't out there and played really, really well.
"A win against second on the table is always going to be good for our morale."
The victory becomes the biggest giant-killing win in the League this season between the Whanganui clubs, surpassing Versatile Wanganui City FC's identical 1-0 scoreline against current fourth-placed North End on June 8.
As spectulated before kickoff, Wanganui Athletic did back their defence, now tied for second best in Federation League, to frustrate a visiting team that is likewise second-best for offence, but were unable to add to their tally of 41 goals in 2019.
The decisive moment came when Scott Burney was fouled as he broke his way into the box, setting up the penalty attempt.
Yet a Wanganui squad that's still playing without their main striker Ryan Holden all sort of walked away from the spot, figuratively whistling to the clouds.
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King even made eye contact with Matt Calvert, watching all the way back at goalie, to inquire if he might be up to the task.
In the end, Jude Hiri took a deep breath and collected the ball, and promptly buried it in the back of the net to galvanise his team to continue their battle of attrition.
Key to that was nullifying Marist's contender for the season Golden Boot in Nicholas Carrick, coming off a hat trick against PNBHS.
King said Shaan Stuart, the 1.9-metre back who came home from West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University in May, put on "a clinic of defence".
"Take [Carrick] out of the game and they really had no go forward.
"We did play really well out there."
The frustration got to Carrick so badly that he let loose an f-bomb spray at the official and earned a 10-minute sinbinning from dissent, under a law introduced last season where that kind of yellow card sees the player leave the field, rather than needing two cards.
As well as Stuart, King had to praise young winger Divnesh Dayal, who joined the team for his debut in the place of Holden and made several attacking contributions from the wing.
Having now won three of their last four games, Athletic (4-2-4) will look to keep the momentum going at home this Saturday to second-bottom Hokowhitu FC (1-1-8), before the big return derby clash with City.