The second round curse against Massey FC has continued for GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic after a frustrating 2-1 defeat at the cold but well-prepared university grounds on Saturday.
Reversing their 6-0 hammering from April, Massey's win saw them move a point above the frustrated Athletic on the Lotto Federation Cup table, appearing for the second year to be derailing their goal of finishing in second place for the season.
And just like 2017, Athletic will have to go into their next game without a key player as top goalscorer Quinn Mailman received a contentious red card for a reckless challenge late in the match after a period of tempestuous play from both sides.
Athletic coach Jason King said with the benefit of watching the video replay of the incident a few times, it appeared to be a fair challenge.
However, unlike his censured Versatile Wanganui City counterpart Kelvin Francis, King stopped short of criticising the referees.
"Officials don't get that [hindsight] time, as opposed to getting caught up in the passion," he said.
"The game's 90 minutes long, everyone had to play under the same environment."
Keeper Matthew Calvert, who got the two yellows in the 2017 match, had a good game in the box but was unlucky that one of his deflections was regathered and sent into the back of the net, as the Athletic backs were caught out a couple of times.
"But let's be fair to the backline, all mistakes don't start there," said King.
"We had the territory 60 per cent of the game, 70 per cent, we had the opportunities."
Meanwhile, at the other end, Athletic could only add another penalty shot from Ryan Holden, as King said the same Massey keeper who leaked six goals in April suddenly turned into England's Jordan Lee Pickford with a man of the match performance.
"Their keeper had 2-3 amazing saves.
"I don't know if he had a Red Bull before the match, but he had wings to get around to make those saves.
"He had no time to see the ball or anything."
King had to tip his hat to his opposite Donald Piper, as Massey's 5-3-2 record moves them up to third, two points behind second placed North End on a now congested table underneath the uncatchable Palmerston North Marist.
"That's obviously disappointing for us, but I spoke to Donald and we were just talking about the league itself and the results over the last four weeks are so changeable," said King.
"Even in the aftermatch, there was a comment on how there was a couple of [our] players they had to screen and they had practiced that during the week."
Athletic will now have to do without Mailman as they prepare for the trip to Memorial Park to meet the undefeated Marist, who are already beginning to eye up North Wellington AFC – likewise unbeaten in their competition – regarding Central League qualification at the end of the season.
Marist gave some of their young players a start on Saturday and still murdered cellar-dwellers Breakers RSM by 10-1.
They will be eager to correct the 3-all draw Athletic managed against them at Wembley Park on May 5 – one of only two draws to go with their nine wins.
It was not a good weekend for the club, as the GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves were hammered 7-1 by Levin AFC down at Donnelly Park in the Horizons Premiership.