Versatile Wanganui City FC could well be sending an engraved thank you to GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic coach Jason King after their away match at Pukekura Park against the unpredictable New Plymouth Rangers on Sunday.
King had been publicly frustrated by the state of affairs in his team's 3-2 loss to Rangers at a soaked Pukekura Park two weeks ago, when they were not allocated a space in the small car parking area for their van and trailer – having to carry their gear from two blocks away – while the teams were prevented from warming up on the field due to the state of the ground after the curtain raiser match.
Rangers have started using Pukekura after previous home games this year were held at the Yarrow Stadium grounds, due their own Merrilands Domain currently being considered below required standards by Central Football.
In an email sent to the Whanganui Chronicle last week, a committee member from Rangers gave a personal apology for the oversight of not allocating Athletic a parking space, while stating the club will try not to schedule a senior men's Taranaki Premiership match as the curtain raiser again, perhaps instead using a junior or women's match, which would not wear so heavily on the pitch in wet weather.
King really appreciated the gesture of the email, and City co-coach Anthony Bell, now able to travel with the squad as he recovers from his broken leg, is likewise optimistic of better circumstances, even if the forecast afternoon showers do arrive.
"Let's hope so. Being a Sunday game, [Rangers] are able to use anyone in their club, including carrying a full bench," Bell said.
"I guess we've just got to think about that [ground state], with the football we're going to play."
Knowing Pukekura's cricket pitch area is the first section to take on water in heavy rain, City have had success in attacking down the wings anyway, notably last weekend in their 6-0 shut out of Palmerston North Boys High at Skoglund Park.
"Credit to the boys last week, our first clean sheet since North End, with two school kids in the backline," said Bell.
Jack Donaldson and Ben Walkly impressed in their first starts.
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"The young fellas will come away, so definitely carrying a three-man bench."
While Rangers (2-1-7) have had a tough season, their most noteworthy results have been against the Whanganui clubs.
As well as the win over Athletic, Rangers shocked City (4-3-3) when they blew out to a 3-0 lead against them at Wembley Park on June 15, led by standout striker Kieran Sturrock, before engaging in an extraordinary second half goal fest that saw City claw up to level 6-6 near fulltime.
This coupled with a 2-2 draw at home with Massey University FC the following weekend, the game where Bell was injured, was frustrating for City to have left behind four competition points they were confident of banking.
"It's a little bit of revenge, for sure. If we'd got those wins, we'd push away a little bit, closer to fourth spot [on points table]," said Bell.
"We know their strength with Kieran, so [it's] whether we man-mark him early...break play going up through him."
Provided he gets through tomorrow's WRFU Division 3 rugby game for Marist Buffalo's against Border Seniors in Waverley, Jake Lockett will also be available after his second-half hat trick against PNBHS last weekend.
"Quite ideal, because Zane [Robinson] won't be travelling, suffering from an achilles problem," said Bell.
The injured co-coach will be spending his Saturday going to watch Wanganui Athletic (4-2-4) take on Hokowhitu FC (1-1-8) at Wembley Park, coming off Athletic's stunning 1-0 upset of Palmerston North Marist last weekend.
"It shows that Whanganui teams, even though they get a few results they don't want to, they still play [good] footy."
Athletic will also be looking to make a statement and complete their revenge against their cellar-dweller opposition.
It was a dark time for the side when they lost a Federation Cup home game where they were the heavy favourites against Hokowhitu, 2-1 on Queens Birthday Monday.
Normal transmission resumed just five sleeps later when Athletic beat Hokowhitu 3-0 at Skoglund Park in the return to Federation League play.
"We know we can beat this team, we went down to them in the cup fixture, but we did bounce back the next week," said King.
"For us, it's really about keeping that momentum and playing the way that gets the results."
The side is still without striker Ryan Holden, who was kicking a ball around at Wembley last weekend, but it was obvious one foot is not working the same way as the other, as he waits to see a specialist.
Will King returns to the side after a family bereavement, although the team will go without Jake Simcox, who due to an evening engagement will play the earlier match for the GJ Gardener Wanganui Athletic Reserves.
After missing two games with injured ribs, Peter Czerwonka will make his return.
"He tells me that they're fine, I suspect they're a little niggly, but it's his call," said King.
Coming up from the Reserves tomorrow will be Karan Holland, while after impressing in the win over Palmerston North Marist, young winger Divnesh Dayal keeps his spot in the starting lineup.
"He certainly proved himself last week," said King.
The league games kick off at 2.45pm on both days.
In the Horizons Premiership, the Athletic Reserves (2-0-7) with Simcox will be hunting their third win against fellow bottom-table team Takaro 1sts (1-2-6), with kickoff at 12.30pm.
And on Sunday in the Women's Federation League, Team Ritesh Football Whanganui (4-4-2) host third-place Palmerston North Marist (2-6-2) at Wembley Park to see if either of them can break their season stalemate – having had two previous 2-2 draws – with kickoff at 1pm.