GJ Gardner Wanganui Athletic were left to rue a drop in intensity on their trip to Taranaki as a sole second half goal by rivals New Plymouth Rangers took the home side to a 1-0 win in the second round of Lotto Federation League on Saturday.
After momentum swung both ways at Merrilands Domain, although the match lacked for any sparkly play, Rangers scored in the second half through a header from Taku Warren.
"Just a nice tap to lift it over Matty [Calvert], but it was just ugly [buildup]," said Athletic coach Jason King.
Rangers got a breakaway to enter Athletic's half, which the defence shut down but struggled to clear after a too heavy touch.
As the ball was lost and regained by both teams near the Athletic goal, it spooned up and Warren seized his chance.
King said the opportunistic goal deflated his team, which was the opposite of last year's clashes between the sides when Athletic would usually lift when they found themselves trailing Rangers.
"It wasn't the football we wanted to play. We did let ourselves down with the intensity.
"We were last to try to get to that second ball. They were sharper on the little bits.
"We did make them look a lot better."
Kelvin Hove was solid in the midfield for Athletic, while defender Peter Czerwonka was the team man of the match and deserved a better result as he was strong at the back and tried to lift his flagging team mates.
Calvert had a good match in-goal, including somehow getting down in time to stop a speeding bullet from former Team Taranaki player Wade Randle, then leapt up to batter the ball away from the surprised Rangers forwards who were sure it was going to be a goal.
"It was quite a bobbly pitch, our training pitch at Wembley was probably in a better state," said King.
"But there's not much you can do."
The one-goal loss drops them down from second on the Federation League table to fourth, with Rangers now leading after two 1-0 wins after PN Marist were surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw by Massey.
Hokowhitu recovered from their 7-2 pasting by Marist to draw 1-1 with Breakers, while North End's 4-3 win over Wanganui City lifted them to second.
In the Horizons Premiership, the GJ Gardner Wanganui Athletic Reserves were beaten 2-1 by Levin AFC.