To steal Alfred Lord Tennyson's quote and mutate it: "It is better to have competed and lost than to never have competed."
That perhaps best describes Building King Havelock North Wanderers' one-season love affair which is all but over after they lost 3-2 to Wellington Olympic in Hastings today.
As goalkeeper Nick Hayward had said before the season-defining, penultimate Ultra Football Central League match at Guthrie Park, the Chris Greatholder-coached lads showed a lot of heart and endeavour but after flirtation some serious commitment is needed to keep the fire burning.
With the final match away against defending champions Advanced Electrical Western Suburbs in a fortnight, the Wanderers will find themselves back in the lower-tier Lotto Federation League next winter.
Miracles do happen but there's a better chance of Central League organisers throwing the villagers another lifeline is someone pulls the pin although that's highly unlikely.
"It's a massive ask now. It'll have to be the football upset of the season for us to win [against Suburbs]," said Greatholder who had run on the park in the 76th minute to spark a concerted wave of attacks but to no avail. It was the centre midfielder's first game since the 39-year-old player/coach was concussed at training in May.
Nevertheless, he was proud of his boys and how they had incrementally grown in the premier winter league.
"I could go on about some of the budgets on the other sides and what they spend on players each week and all that compared with what we do.
"It's a hard luck story for us but it could have been a fairytale. We've come in and given the league a shake. I think we've scared a few but given a bit more time we could have competed to show we belong here."
The Wanderers showed they could mix it with the big boys but it hurt.
Greatholder said they had all off season to reflect but, more immediately, they had to click their heels a little higher to lift themselves against Suburbs on Saturday, August 18.
The hosts started the first half unconvincingly, especially from the back where passes lacked purpose. That enabled the Alex Palezevic-captained Greeks to dine out on poor passes and clearances in mounting a wave of counter attacks.
"Our communication in the back line wasn't good enough for the way we were playing and directing so there were too many grey areas but it was something we addressed at halftime and we were much better," Greatholder said.
Olympic had pedigree players in ex-Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United player Palezevic, former Wellington Phoenix and Solomon Islands international Henry Fa'arodo and ex-Bay United forager Gavin Hoy, of Canada, in the mix.
However, it was Olympic left winger Seth Ward who had an outstanding spell, shredding the Havelock North defence at will.
It was one of those surges in just the second minute that yielded a penalty kick after defender Che Jesson-Bentley hacked Ward in the 18m box, which Cristian Baz coolly slotted past Hayward for a 1-0 lead.
However, Havelock North, who also were guilty of not using the stiff wind behind their backs wisely in the first half, but kept the dream alive when two Olympic defenders took turns to demobilise Joshua Murphy in the box - referee Jason Marshall ignored the first pleas but pointed to the penalty spot the second time in the 11th minute.
Striker Gagame Feni had goalkeeper Scott Basalaj diving the wrong way for the 1-1 equaliser.
Unfortunately, another passage of indecisive passing and unforced errors in defence saw Ward pounce on the ball before slipping it past Hayward for a 2-1 lead in the 17th minute.
It didn't help the hosts' cause when promising leftback James Barclay hobbled off with a quad injury soon after with Stefan Kitching-Nicholson running on.
An aerial collision in the 32nd minute between Havelock North winger Liam Shackleton and Olympic centreback Jacob Masseurs halted play for a few minutes.
Both the keepers made splendid saves before halftime to keep the score intact.
Greatholder's pep talk did the trick in the second half when Shackleton equalised 2-2 just two minutes into play after a patient build up that involved captain Ethan Dent, Feni and a versatile Kenny Willox who flicked a flop-wedge like golf shot over the defenders' heads to enable the winger to run through to place the ball into the net.
Olympic player Blake Weston collected a yellow card in the 60th minute for blatantly fouling Feni who looked like worming his way from 30m out on a counter attack.
That spurred the villagers into action in the 67th minute but neither Murphy nor Jared Bloor could score.
Cruelly it was the Greeks who broke the home fans' hearts when Hoy crisply drilled in the winner from inside the box after several failed feeble attempts to clear the ball from danger in defence.
Greatholder's injection got Havelock North on the front foot but why Ian Paia wasn't played much earlier for more stability and penetration could have been the difference. The Solomon Islander ended up playing in the club's second team for a good part of the latter part of the season and warmed the bench for the Wanderers.
The closest the hosts came to equalising was in the 83rd minute when Greatholder's volley off a cross from the top of the box clipped the crossbar.
To the amusement of the fans, Hoy went down injured about 25m from the Havelock North goalmouth with Olympic players appealing to the Wanderers to kick the ball out of play so he could be attended to.
Comically when the Greeks got the ball they didn't kick it out either as play carried on for almost five minutes before it went out for a throw in. Hoy got up and hobbled off the field amid jeers.
Palezevic agreed Olympic dominated the first half but lamented not finding the net with regularity which made their job tougher.
"With the first half we should have been quite a few goals ahead but, at the end of the day, we didn't take our chances," said the midfielder whose side want to finish their season on a high as mid-table campaigners.
Palezevic said the last-placed Wanderers also showed a lot of hunger but the Greeks had adapted to overcome the tough Wellington-like conditions here today.
"Sometimes you need these kind of results so you just have to grind them out," he said.
Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers beat Lower Hutt City 3-0 yesterday to remain the top contenders for the league crown this season.
The Blues host Wairarapa United in their final outing at Park Island in a fortnight as the league organisers aim for a collective conclusion to the season. The 10-team league will stage three catch-up games next weekend.