GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic vs New Plymouth Rangers rivalry nearly turned into amphibious warfare as Athletic lost 3-2 at a sodden Pukekura Park on Sunday.
Coming into the game on the back of two away wins in the Lotto Federation League, Athletic had acquiescenced to Rangers pre-season request to host the match on a Sunday, therefore getting the worst of the weekend weather after Saturday's League games around the catchment were played in mild conditions.
"It was a rubbish day, we were looking forward to playing on a good surface, but the weather and having a game on it before us...," said coach Jason King.
Pukekura Park's cricket pitch area in the middle of the field was virtually under water.
"You'd see the ball running along with a tail of water spraying up," said King.
"The game broke down into a melee. It really required you to battle."
King had already been annoyed that with two matches on the field, no car spot was reserved for his team's van in the park grounds, having to drop the players off and then carry their training gear from two blocks away.
Both sides were then prevented from warming up on the field by officials to try and salvage some of the ground's state, and being in the middle of a garden park in the middle of New Plymouth township, there was nowhere else to go.
"That's a bit ridiculous when you've just put a game on it," said King.
"When you come down here, we give you [parking space] right by where you can get changed."
Hodgkinson accurate, Ireton amazing, Walker brilliant
City in 12 goal thriller, while Athletic hold off the Palmy schooboys
Athletic still opened the scoring through their Ohakune man Will King, busting through defenders to get off a great strike, then the two teams traded goals to be locked up 2-2 in the second half before a heavy blow left Athletic down to ten men at a critical moment.
"We had a shot for a penalty when one of their players collided with Will's head," said King.
The wound split open and because Athletic had already put on their two young reserve players, they had to carry on while staff tried to stop the blood flow from under Will King's eye on the sideline.
A tiring player who was planned to come off right before the incident, was then isolated in a chase against Rangers standout striker Kieran Sturrock – their leading goal scorer – who attacked and forced the match-winning goal.
"It was never going to end up pretty," King said about the bad timing.
"[Sturrock] was involved in just about everything that went forward.
"We were unable to make the sub we wanted at that time."
King had to guffaw after the fulltime whistle as he walked off to get the van and some over exuberant Rangers fans told him their victory was "justice for last week", when Rangers drew 6-6 with Versatile Wanganui City FC at Wembley Park after they led by two goals inside the last ten minutes.
"I stopped and said, 'justice for what? We didn't play you last week'.
"They're obviously very sore about the game last week.
"We became the whipping boys for it."
Whether Taranaki fans are mixing up the Whanganui-based clubs or not, Athletic have still lost three of their last four matchups against their northern rival, with all three defeats being in League play.
"Hugely frustrating, felt a bit like I did after the [Napier] Marist game, I thought we should have done better," said King.
"But there were uncontrollable variables that had an effect."
With a couple of key players away, King was pleased with the performance of Logan Hughes, back in the team from a school break.
"It was good to have him step in for an important role and he did quite well for us."
Now preparing for a run of three home games, starting with the imposing Palmerston North Marist (7-0-2) this Saturday, King will hope to have the likes of Ryan Holden and James Satherley back from injury.