They just wanted to try some new things, and Team Ritesh Whanganui gave Women's Federation League champions-in-waiting Hokowhitu FC quite the fright in their 3-2 loss at Skoglund Park on Sunday.
After a disappointing third round of results, including last weekend's flat 4-1 hammering by Massey University FC, Whanganui (4-5-5) were not expecting miracles against their unbeaten opposition (12-2-0), but found themselves leading at 2-1 at halftime.
After conceeding the opening goal in the 10th minute, Whanganui hit back with two goals inside the remaining ten minutes of the first half from their standout striker Vanya Apiata-Hodgkinson, who scored in the 35th minute and then with the final kick before the break.
"It was end to end stuff," said assistant coach Scott Burney, who took the team to Palmerston North with head coach Matt Calvert having a work commitment.
"We had our chances, they had a few more than Megan [O'Connor] squashed."
After a tough game against Massey, the keeper O'Connor stepped up with a player of the day performance against the Hokowhitu shooters who have put home 49 goals this year.
But the home side didn't panic, as they equalised in the 55th minute and then got the go-ahead goal with 20 minutes left, and unfortunately for Whanganui, they couldn't push through for a season-defining equaliser.
As well as O'Connor and Apiata-Hodgkinson, Burney said the entire remainder of the squad got the other MVP point.
So many of them were tried out of position, with Aimee Ashworth getting a run, Dana McClelland experimenting at fullback, Stella Warner in the middle of the park and Ashley Cowley also trying a ten minute midfield stint.
"It took a lot of pressure away from the girls, a big reason why they stepped up," said Burney.
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Hokowhitu's three goals all came from midfield penetrations, whereas Whanganui had the better of the passing game, despite players in unfamiliar spots.
Most importantly, Apiata-Hodgkinson's double moved her to 14 goals for the season, which keeps her two clear at the top of the Golden Boot standings heading into Whanganui's last game – a Wembley Park matchup against winless Feilding United.
Calvert said his striker getting the Golden Boot would be great reward for how Apiata-Hodgkinson has lifted her game this year, as he knows from experience how many Whanganui sides across all grades are crying out for in-form strikers.
"She's at a goal every game [average] and I don't think you can ask any more from her."
Whanganui will be aiming to have some fun in their last match, looking to finish with an even 5-5-5 record in their season of great improvement, although they can no longer achieve their goal of finishing second on the table after Federation Cup final-bound Taradale FC (6-4-3) picked up a 4-1 win over Palmerston North Marist.
In the other game, Massey FC (4-5-5) continued their strong late season finish with an 11-1 hammering of Feilding (0-0-13).
The Horizons Premiership saw GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves lose 4-0 to Hokowhitu FC on Saturday.