The relief was palpable for Team Ritesh Football Whanganui after securing their first points of the 2020 Women's Federation League in their first away match – winning 2-1 over Massey University FC at the campus grounds on Sunday.
After a heavy defeat to Moturoa and disappointing one-goal loss to Taradale AFC in their opening Wembley Park games, Whanganui were starting to wonder if last season's solid results (5-5-5) had been an anomaly.
Delighted coach Matt Calvert said the victory, built on two sparkling goals from Golden Boot winner Vanya Apiata Hodgkinson in the first half and resolute defence in the second, was so important for squad morale - from the players through to their support group.
"The girls spoke about that afterwards - setting the standards.
"I would put it down as the most effective Whanganui performance there's been."
Whanganui had a handful of changes from the 1-0 defeat to Taradale, with Eva Thompson not right after a head knock in that game, as Emma Wood came into the starting lineup, while Rose Davidson returned to the bench for her first match of the season.
Games with Massey have also been a close battle, and after being shut down by Taradale, this time the forwards delivered.
Hodgkinson scored similar looking goals in the 23rd and 32nd minutes, the latter coming off a brilliant pass into space, while she had another shot into the goal keeper in between times.
"What we spoke about we improved, going forward," said Calvert.
Whanganui protected their own half and forced Massey to work in the areas where the visitors wanted them to go, having to take most of their first half shots on goal from outside the box.
Looking to consolidate, Whanganui made halftime changes with Davidson coming on for Hodgkinson while Danja Grunwald replaced veteran defender Lisa Walker.
The first 15 minutes after the restart saw Massey put Whanganui right under the pump, with the defenders responding very well until an excellent strike in the 57th minute saw the lead reduced to 2-1.
Calvert said the 35m goal was so well delivered that you just had to accept it and stay focused on keeping the same defensive screen.
"Supporters who had watched the first two weeks, they said then, we would have crumbled, but we just didn't do it.
"We just got through it - they had four chances in five minutes.
"You could just see from the girls that they wanted to see the game out."
Massey also had the majority of the possession in the final 20 minutes, but were frustrated they could not force the equaliser, leaving them the only winless team after the first round, although they have been fully competitive after a draw with Taradale and only losing by one goal to Moturoa up in New Plymouth.
The Taranaki team sits firmly on top of the table after they travelled to beat Taradale 1-0 on Sunday.
While Calvert said the side was over the moon with the win, he had to ask them if they wanted that to be their only season highlight, as the challenges only get harder from here with the return game against Moturoa this Sunday.
Kickoff will be at 12.30pm at the Onuku Taipari Domain in New Plymouth.