GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic coach Jason King was beginning to wonder after three seasons if he was cursed.
Having confirmed this will be his last year in charge of the Lotto Federation League side, King had wanted to finish his regular season tenure on a high after knowing the disappointment of losing the final match in both previous campaigns.
And that was conveyed to his players after they came off the field trailing home team Massey University FC 2-0 at halftime on Saturday.
"That was pretty much what was said at halftime – 'c'mon guys, we're better than this'," King said.
After a "shoddy" and "disjointed" effort, Athletic's leading players put it together in the second stanza for their coach with a great 3-2 comeback win, with Scott Burney scoring his second goal in the 90th minute to put them clear.
The fightback started straight after the break when Athletic got a corner, and so moved their towering defender Shaan Stuart into the box due to his advantage for headers.
However, this time the ball fell at Stuart's feet and he got the toe onto it to close the gap.
Around five minutes later, Burney had a half chance and pushed the ball past scrambling home players, where it touched the post and spun back on the angle to just spin across the line.
"It was two really ugly goals to get us even again," said King.
"It was just what we needed – a little injury time and we got the win."
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Burney, showing a surprising turn of pace for that late stage of the match, got himself one vs one with the Massey keeper, who slid into him, but not before a chip kick over the top held up in the wind and bounced into the goal mouth.
Athletic were always going to finish League play in fifth place on the table, but the win padded out their record to a more impressive 8-3-5, especially so when considering the trials and tribulations of the early part of the campaign.
From April to June, Athletic dropped or drew several matches they had hoped to do well in, and right when they were starting to find some attacking form, they lost pivotal striker Ryan Holden to injury for six games.
King and the side had to completely reset, and with the arrival home of Stuart, they based their style around defence, emerging with statistically the second-best record in the League with 20 goals conceded, behind only the invincible champions Havelock North (12).
However, given Havelock North's best defence was their good offence, keeping the ball at the other end to score an incredible 81 goals, Athletic (33 goals) had to dig a little deeper in the dangerzone in front of goalie Matt Calvert.
"You look at the games, apart from Palmy Boys [10-0 win], we never had any high-scoring games," said King.
"The second half of the season, we did start to improve a lot.
"If we had done this earlier, it might have been different."
Burney and Will King also stepped up to try and generate more chances up the front.
The team will have a break from training this week, while their Versatile Wanganui City FC neighbours are off chasing Federation Cup glory in their away semifinal with Gisborne United.
If City make the final, the match won't be held until another fortnight, meaning September 14 can be officially pencilled in as the date for the Charity Cup derby, between two Whanganui clubs who have twice fought out scoreless draws this year.
In the Horizons Premiership, the GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves (3-1-12) found themselves caught up in the title equation in their 4-0 away loss to Levin AFC.
Levin getting the victory meant they won the Premiership by a solitary competition point from Massey FC, who also won their last game against Takaro 6-1, as both table leaders even finished tied on differential with +41.