They're hoping for the best but deep down expecting the worst – 120 minutes of attrition and then an unbearable penalty shootout finale.
The unstoppable force and the immovable object meet again at Wembley Park tomorrow afternoon as neighbour rivals GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic and Versatile Wanganui City FC fight it out for the only silverware left for them in 2019 – the Charity Cup.
It will be the ultimate statement on their rivalry for 2019, which has been marked by 180 minutes of scoreless football, and alternating fortunes in both of their Central Football competitions.
Athletic finished Lotto Federation League with a superior 8-3-5 record for fifth place, one spot ahead of City (6-4-6), with the latter half of Athletic's campaign marked by their resolute defence.
However, the men in red were knocked out of the Federation Cup during the Round of 16, whereas City rode their enterprising style of attack – plus an initially favourable fixtures draw – all the way to last Saturday's away semifinal, when said luck ran out in extra time against Gisborne United.
It means both clubs have had to wait 12 months to the week to see which of them will head to the pay window, since Athletic prevailed in last year's Charity Cup clash, winning 4-3 win on penalties after another stalemate, this one 2-2.
Since that time, neither team could find the back of the net against the other, their season opener on April 6 marked by a sloppy match both sides would rather forget, while July 7 was a game of opposite's attack – each side cancelling out their opposition.
While City are having to pull themselves back up after the heartbreak of last weekend in Gisborne, Athletic have had a fortnight to think about this fixture, taking a break last week before ramping up training in their two sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.
"Good intensity for the lads, they're certainly getting up and looking forward to the game," said departing Athletic coach Jason King.
"For the lads to be able to retain the cup and keep it in the clubrooms, it's the only thing left to play for.
"Who wouldn't like to get it done in 90 [minutes]? But at the end of training on Thursday, one of the lads said 'shall we practice some penalties'?"
"We've had essentially three draws in our last three matches."
City co-coach Anthony Bell is on record that he felt Athletic still played a little negatively in their last meeting – moving the ball to standout Scott Burney in the corners if the situation looked a little hairy.
But despite relying on towering defender Shaan Stuart, who influence was crucial after the side lost injured linchpin striker Ryan Holden for six games, King dismisses suggestions that Athletic just park the bus as being "rubbish".
"We've started to find the back of the net as the season's crept on.
"There's no point in playing for a draw and then trying to take it on penalties.
"I came to the club with the philosophy of football being a simple game - we score one more than them.
"We'd like to take the game to them. I see a lot of bodies going on the line.
"We're going out to prove points."
As well as Holden and Stuart, the Ohakune man Will King began to find some goal-scoring form at the end of the League season, while tomorrow will be a true test for the emerging youngsters like Divnesh Dayal and Jake Simcox, who have been coming off a tournament week of football at Wembley Park, as has Kyle Thomas for City.
Bell, who lost the entire second half of the season to his broken leg, knows that if City wait for Athletic to make a mistake on defence, they may be waiting for an entire 120 minutes.
"Look what happened the last three times. The TAB odds would be for that [extra time draw].
"Charity Cup brings a completely different dimension to the game.
"Where both team's finished in League, it was very tight.
"Even though, yes, we may have conceded more goals than then, against the opponent we play [today], we haven't conceded any.
"Nothing changes for us, to be fair.
"We've got to think about how we get the ball in the back of the net as well.
"We kind of need to go out and press them early."
Regular goal scorer Kyle Graham-Luke can thrive in an environment with more broken play, while Bell's fellow co-coach Latham Berry is anxious to get amongst it.
"Latham didn't play at all in last year's Charity Cup, he was injured," said Bell.
"For him, this weekend is pretty big as well."
Likewise, Zane Robinson and Jordan Joblin-Hall were with Manawatu clubs at this same time last year, and Bell said the prospect of playing this fixture was a tipping point in Joblin-Hall's decision to come home.
Throw in code-hopper Jake Lockett, and City have the players who could fit the bill of being the hero – creating that one crucial play in the match to score a goal which the team could then ride through until fulltime.
"Whether it's the first minute or the 100th minute in extra time, they could have that moment," said Bell.
Kickoff is at 2pm.
Dress warm and pack some supplies — it could be a long afternoon.
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A couple of the players in the frame tomorrow for the Charity Cup game have had a packed few days as Whanganui High School 1st XI finished fifth at their tournament week competition at Wembley Park.
The side was eliminated in the quarterfinals by an Auckland school, but still won their last two consolation games to get the commendable finish.
Wembley Park No1 field was not used for the tournament, to keep it in the best state for tomorrow's game.