GJ Gardener Wanganui Athletic have advanced to the next round of the Lotto Federation Cup in three weeks, and by then coach Jason King's fingernails should have grown back after their penalty shootout victory over Port Hill United at Marewa Park on Saturday.
In an extraordinary game of football, Athletic went out to an early 2-0 lead but then had to comeback twice to tie the match – 3-3 after regulation time and then 4-4 with a somewhat contentious goal inside the last minute of extra time in Napier.
Having lost the referee to a pulled hamstring in the 26th minute, both sides carried on under the rather young linesman, whose father, a former referee but in his street gear, then took over the sideline work.
It was the older man's call that Athletic's Scott Burney had scored his second goal at the end of extra time, after he and Matt Calvert had leapt up into a goal mouth scramble with Port Hill, with the goal keeper ruled to have pulled the ball back into his arms after it had crossed the line.
King, much like last year in the Charity Cup game, could not bear to watch the shootout, finding a "cozy little corner" from where he could only see the halfway line where his team was watching.
The Athletic players nerves held, winning the shootout 4-3.
"I didn't pack enough chewing gum and I didn't have any nails left," King said.
A number of locals were upset with the Burney goal, but King said it's not like wearing a referee outfit would have changed the call, as that father and son combination had been in charge for three quarters of the match.
"You can't accept 90 per cent of their decisions, and not the last one."
As well as Burney getting a double, the other Athletic goals came from Jake Simcox and Peter Czerwonka, with Athletic up 2-0 after 15 minutes.
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"We were really positive, I think maybe the fact we were in an uncommon position, for this season, we got speed wobbles," said King.
"Cup football is always different, you play like there is no next week.
"I don't think we won the game – we escaped."
The GJ Gardener Wanganui Athletic Reserves experienced similar euphoria in their cup fixture with the Hokowhitu Reserves, winning 5-4 after extra time.