If this year's ASB Premiership final is again of the Super City derby variety, Auckland City will be a step ahead of Waitakere before a ball is even kicked.
Auckland beat their city rivals today for the third time this season, winning 3-1 at Kiwitea St to open up a five-point gap between the sides. But if the teams meet in the playoffs, perhaps the more insurmountable gap for Waitakere will be the one in their minds.
After today's game, Waitakere coach Neil Emblem conceded the minor premiership to their neighbours, and admitted his side suffered psychologically once they fell behind.
"Our main focus now is to try and get second spot, and we'll worry about the playoffs when they come around," Emblem said. "I just think it was a bit of 'here we go again'. We've been beaten by them a few times this year, and when you have been your mindset is, 'it's going to happen again'."
That kind of mindset is as encouraging for Auckland as it is detrimental for Waitakere. After some enterprising early attacks from the west Aucklanders went without reward, Luis Corrales struck on the half hour to put his side following a speedy solo run.
The goal provided a noticeable boost for Auckland, sparking a period of dominance halted only by the halftime whistle. Waitakere levelled the scores shortly after the break when Chris Bale got on the end of a long throw but the goal, again, seemed a catalyst for Auckland to turn the screws.
Auckland's second looked to be coming but, when it arrived, it owed as much to good fortune as it did concerted pressure. An Auckland attack had broken down inside the area when Waitakere midfielder Ryan de Vries tried to send the ball upfield only for Daniel Koprivcic to block the clearance and watch the ball balloon over a helpless Danny Robinson in the Waitakere goal.
"I think the second goal was the turning point in the game, it was terrible luck for us and, all of a sudden, we were chasing the game," Emblem said. "It was just our mindset changed and Auckland had something to hang onto again."
Hang on they did, aided by a fine finish from Manel Exposito 10 minutes from time, to secure their 18th win over Waitakere in 35 encounters.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx refused to buy into the idea his team were in Waitakere's heads, saying, if anything, Auckland's dominance meant a reversal was bound to follow.
"Every time we play them it's going to be even more difficult, because it's not normal we win all the time. But we'll have to keep going and keep treating every game the same."
The win was Auckland's first in three games, after surprisingly being held to draws by Waikato and Wellington in recent weeks. They now face a trip to Hawke's Bay on Waitangi Day, where a win would put them five points clear of second-place Canterbury - who smashed Hawke's Bay 7-0 today - with Waitakere a further three points back.