With 14 goals in the bag as a golden-boot contender you would think Sam Mason-Smith would be over the moon and, for the record, the striker is.
But Mason-Smith agrees he would have traded off that ascendancy in a heartbeat for a playoffs berth for Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United in the ISPS Handa Premiership this season.
That playoffs ship, by the way, has already left the port for the Birhanu Taye-captained Bay United who sit seventh on the 10-team national summer league ladder and will play the ninth-placed visitors in the 4.35pm televised kick off in Napier tomorrow. "You know, I like scoring goals but it's not all about me because as a team we need to keep a clean sheet as it's about winning games as well," says the 27-year-old Englishman who has a two-goal lead on the golden-boot race over Callum McCowatt, of Eastern Suburbs, and Garbhan Coughland, of Southern United.
"We seem to be involved in these, you know, rugby scores with Hawke's Bay this year so, hopefully, again this weekend we can front up and finish with a clean sheet for once," says the bloke who feels relaxed in pulling the trigger but is mindful his teammates have played a pivotal part in ensuring he's "been in the right place at the right time".
That doesn't detract from Mason-Smith's delight to be leading the delegation in the scoring department.
"I'm very pleased with my own form this [season] in front of the goal so I've, hopefully, got a couple more to add to that."
It isn't lost on him that if he finds the net a few more times and the Bay United back benchers keep their goalmouth intact then the collective will rejoice.
"It's a funny one really but, unfortunately, that's how this season has panned out."
Only a victory separates the deficit between the sides on the table as the hosts have four victories to Tasman's three although they have both posted three stalemates and the latter has a better -12 goal difference to the former's -15.
That is where Bay United coach Brett Angell's frustrations lie — the number of goals a porous defence has conceded this summer.
Tasman are struggling at the coal face, scoring only 19 goals but conceding 31.
Juxtapose that with last season when Bay United couldn't buy a goal so Mason-Smith's return to the fold from an overseas stint has definitely helped resolve that issue.
However, putting up the storm shutters has been a painful exercise and last Sunday's away game typifies that with a 7-2 thumping at the hands of eighth-placed Waitakere United who had registered their first win in more than a month.
"Obviously it was a very disappointing result especially after previously beating them 4-0 at home," he says, after stepping up to tuck away his first penalty this summer last Sunday.
Bay United have leaked 48 goals this season, five more than last-placed Wellington Phoenix Reserves.
Mason-Smith says it's an opportunity to put things right tomorrow although it's obvious Bay United have missed out on the playoffs because they have been haemorrhaging goals week in, week out.
"We've scored plenty of goals this year to be one of the highest-scoring teams but, unfortunately, we're also the team who has conceded the most so you're not going to win football games playing like that."
Ironically it does pose the question of whether the defence lacks someone of the experience and poise of sacked captain Bill Robertson who got a last-minute reprieve from Waitakere United before Team Wellington snapped him up last week for their O-League campaign in progress in Vanuatu.
The overriding motivation, of course, is to farewell the Bluewater Stadium faithful with a victory in the quest to remain in the purple patch with two more dead rubbers on the road after that.
"We don't want to be remembered for the last home game being a loss so we want to finish on a high at home on three points, which will be great."
Waitakere's resurgence is a timely reminder of how much teams tend to evolve from the first half of a season.
Consequently in beating Tasman United 4-0 with all first-half goals at Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Bay United had conceded two goals in an unfruitful second spell.
It hasn't escaped Mason-Smith's attention that Tasman possess character and are capable of riding the emotional wave for a couple more wins since then.
Angell had described the game as "quite strange" because of a blanket of finality that his troops had draped over the first half dominance.
"We're aware of that and know their threats so we've been working on a few things at training this week to nullify that."
With the likes of newbies, such as Luis Toomey and Josh Murphy making their starting debuts last Sunday, he says they have been training with the squad this season so any perceived sense of disruption to their line up or structure isn't an excuse although he echoed the sentiments of Angell that the pair deserved a more memorable entry into the big league.
"The youngsters are doing well so there's a positive among the negatives, if you know what I mean."
Mason-Smith says defender/midfielder Taye, who had hobbled off Trusts Arena with an injury last Sunday, has been attending training but is 50/50 and will undergo a fitness test before the game to see if he's over the "slight niggles" although he wasn't listed in the squad below when Hawke's Bay Today went to print yesterday.
Having slipped on the captain's armband earlier in the season and deputising last Sunday during Taye's absence, he is happy to assume the mantle of captaincy should the need arise tomorrow.
■ Hawke's Bay United: 1. Mackenzie Waite (GK), 4. Cameron Lindsay, 5. James Marsh, 8. Paul Ifill, 9. Sam Mason-Smith (c), 10. Sho Goto, 11. Maxime Oliveri, 14. Kaeden Atkins, 16. Gavin Hoy, 18. Tai Barham, 19. Luis Toomey, 20. Josh Murphy, 21. Harry Mason, 22. Karan Mandair, 23. Jorge Akers, 26. Alexander Britton (RGK).
Coach: Brett Angell. Ast coach: Jamie Dunning.
■ Tasman United: 1. Keegan Smith (GK), 5. Fox Slotemaker, 6. Bertie Fish, 7. Corey Larsen, 8. Matt Tod-Smith, 11. Alex Ridsdale, 12. Ahmed Othman, 13. James McClay, 14. Ryan Worrall, 15. Konan Hey, 16. Max Winterton, 19. Chester Gaskin, 20. Nick Stanton (GK), 21. Jordan Yong, 25. Jake Williams.
Coach: Andy Hedge
Referee: Anthony Riley.
Ast referees: Mark Rule, Gareth Sheehan.
Fourth official: Matthew Conger.