Team Ritesh Whanganui turned their final Women's Federation League match into an offensive exhibition, with seven players scoring goals in the 9-0 shutout of winless Feilding United at Wembley Park yesterday.
Although not expected to be troubled by the wooden spooners, the victory allowed Whanganui to finish their season of great improvement with an even 5-5-5 record, eclipsing their results from the 2017-18 campaigns.
The only question remaining will be whether their striker Vanya Apiata-Hodgkinson scoring the seventh goal, after a series of near-misses and passing assists to set up multiple team mates finding the net, will be enough to lift the Golden Boot for the League.
With five on the bench, coach Matt Calvert changed normal protocol by constantly rotating players throughout the match, which had no risk as Feilding barely penetrated into Whanganui's half during the third quarter, but Calvert left Apiata-Hodgkinson up front to give her the chance to add to her tally.
Apiata-Hodgkinson finally came off shortly after scoring, following a knock to her ankle from a somewhat reckless challenge, which was also the fate of fellow goal scorer Dana Mclelland – being carried off by team mates after a hard collision with the same Feilding player.
Apiata-Hodgkinson's 15th goal from as many games moves her three goals ahead of her nearest Golden Boot rivals from Hokowhitu FC and Massey FC, however both those teams now have a game in hand after the League matches scheduled in Palmerston North were washed out yesterday.
Champions-in-waiting Hokowhitu (12-2-0) therefore still have to play season runnersup Taradale FC (6-4-3), who have bigger fish to fry with their home Federation Cup final against Taranaki's Moturoa AFC this coming Sunday.
Massey (4-5-5) will also reschedule their fixture with Palmerston North Marist (4-6-4), and along with the Golden Boot issue, both teams will be hunting the win so they can leapfrog Whanganui into a third place finish on the table.
There is also a remaining Taradale vs Feilding United fixture to be held at some stage.
But Whanganui have hung up the boots for 2019, and while coaches Calvert and Scott Burney structured this season around using training to just improve on-field performance, rather than fixating on results, Calvert agreed "100 per cent" he would have taken 5-5-5 at the start of the year.
"The main thing I've gone on with it is [to] change the perception."
Just wanting the team to try to be competitive while fostering their love of the game, Calvert also hoped to silence naysayers, local and elsewhere, feeling they didn't deserve to be in the League after just two wins and two draws from their previous seasons combined.
"What the girls have done this year is completely change that perception.
"It's been the team making the headlines and they've done the region proud in Federation League.
"It's been a really enjoyable season. It's not a joke team anymore, just really delighted and proud of the girls."
With the last game moved over to Wembley's No5 ground, Whanganui opened their account through Eva Thompson, who took a Apiata-Hodgkinson pass to go around her defender and dab her kick from the right to tap the left hand post and rebound over the goal line.
Less than 90 seconds later, Apiata-Hodgkinson got a turnover and had a crack, with her shot deflected from the keeper's hands for Emma Wood to slide onto the ball and score.
Striking the upper post and then putting both a header and shot over the cross bar, Apiata-Hodgkinson was having no luck, but her team mates kept finding the way through as the floodgates opened after halftime.
Rose Davidson snuck through to be all alone with the keeper and put her shot into the top left hand corner, and then Apiata-Hodgkinson getting a slightly mistimed pass meant she changed options and put Mclelland through the gap to nail her goal into the same spot.
Snaffling a Feilding clearance, Candice Armstrong attacked from the right and although she slipped over bringing her kick back, it still rolled perfectly inside the left hand post.
Alice Ireton came off the bench and sent a right side cross kick into the goal mouth, only to watch amazed as no defenders or attackers got a read on the bounce and it just carried on over the line, with Ireton shrugging like she was almost embarrassed at 6-0.
Apiata Hodgkinson kept getting clear on breakaways to barely miss on the left and right, but the goal had to come and on her next solo raid she controlled the ball, took an extra moment, then pushed the ball from left to right to score in a palpable release of tension for the squad.
While she and Mclelland departed, others were still full of running and Wood snatched a turnover and got through two defenders to score her double.
Nearing fulltime, Ireton went herself down the profitable left hand side of the box and this time the shattered keeper hardly made any attempt to stop it for another double nearing fulltime.
The big tally allowed Whanganui to finish with 37 goals for the season to 26 conceded.