Havelock North Wanderers are not out of the storm but they kept their season alive with a passionate victory in Hastings today.
The Building King-sponsored Wanderers pipped main relegation contenders Integration Works Waterside Karori 1-0 on a balmy winter's day at Guthrie Park in the village in round 15 of the Ultra Football Central League.
The goal came from Solomon Islands import Gagame Feni through some individual brilliance in the 35th minute after Jorge Akers threaded a ball from halfway.
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The striker latched on to the pass, dazzled two defenders with some fancy footwork before slipping it past an advancing Waterside Karori's Swedish import goalkeeper Felix Nystrom.
The last-placed hosts showed a lot of character and heart to repel numerous opportunities the Wellingtonians created in the game but the latter also lacked the composure to simply plant the ball in the net, although Havelock North goalkeeper Nicholas Hayward was clinical.
Perhaps the one Waterside Karori would have talked about all the way home in their minibus was the ball Wanderers defender Campbell Whitworth cleared off the goal line in the 44th minute, because that would have swung the momentum their way and also tested the mettle of the opposition youngsters who had dropped their shoulders after a goal in previous encounters.
Conversely Havelock North had created some opportunities as well and should have converted them, especially the one from Feni in the 60th minute when his captain, central midfielder Ethan Dent, provided the impetus with a V pass.
The striker beat the last defender with his pace, took the ball around Nystrom and beat himself over the line in his haste to score.
However, the Havelock North bench was left howling in the 74th minute when referee Robert Swiney waved play on after Nystrom came charging out to take out Feni in a one-on-one situation about 25m out.
Wanderers winger Liam Shackleton collected a yellow card from the English whistle blower for expressing his discontent although, Fifa World Cup or not, he allowed for more holding and physicality.
The game got a little scrappy with the Wanderers eager to show they weren't going to be out-muscled for possession, although for Waterside Karori it was simply a case of sheer frustration, knowing time was running out and they were squandering chances with the opposition slowing down the play.
Havelock North rode their luck but, at times, were guilty of making their intentions too obvious when they had ball at feet or when they had to be subtle about committing professional fouls. No doubt, they will be things that will come with age and experience.
"We just talked about how we have a lot to play for in the next four weeks even though we won't gunning for the title," said a delighted Dent after the game.
He felt it wasn't their finest game of the season but, as far as application off the ball went he couldn't fault anyone.
The Wanderers had played every game in the belief they could eke something out of everyone.
Defending a one-goal margin is always a slippery banana skin and he agreed it was a tense finish to cling to victory.
"In the last 10 to 15 minutes we dug really, really deep," he said, with the defenders putting up the shutters when it mattered most, before singling out Whitworth as the standout.
Dent put down Feni's incident as "unlucky" but said Waterside Karori were also in the same boat and probably also felt equally aggrieved.
"I think, at the end of the day, the team that wanted it most got the three points so I'm really proud of all the boys today."
Waterside Karori captain Ryan Cain said they would use today's defeat for a more polished performance next round as they maintain the position above the victors with a better goal average.
"Every game in the league is tough so we'll have to look at what we could have done better. Obviously we're not very good at finishing.
"You can put in a lot of passes but if you don't put it in the back of the net then you won't win games," Cain said, congratulating the Wanderers and wishing them all the best for the season.
Waterside Karori midfielder Daniel Bowkett showed good vision and ball distribution put his foragers on the front foot so it wasn't surprising to see Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United coach Brett Angell talking to him afterwards.
A good crop of league leaders Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers were among the legion of Blues fans watching today.
They play a Hawke's Bay derby against the Wanderers at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, on Sunday next week.