The Whanganui men's teams pulled off a rare weekend football sweep in the Lotto Federation League with matching 3-2 victories at Merrilands Domain and Wembley Park on Saturday.
Versatile Wanganui City FC, with their 3-7 record, have not had a sparkling season in their return to League play, but goalkeeper-coach Kelvin Francis and his squad will gladly hang their hat on securing back-to-back wins over New Plymouth Rangers on their home clay-based turf at Merrilands.
Following up City's come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Wembley back in April, this time City and Rangers swapped momentum throughout the match, with the visitors unlucky to strike the bar or be denied on headers several more times.
"It didn't start so good, we talked about not getting behind and chasing games," said Francis.
"One minute and 30 seconds in, and the ball goes into the back of my net."
The coach was covering goalie for the second weekend but lasted only 13 minutes before blowing his quad, with Eli Fleming having to come in from the field to take the gloves.
"[Rangers] played well for 15 minutes of the first half, and then we dominated after that," said Francis.
A Josh Ngapeka strike just went over the top, but then 30 minutes in, Jake Lockett justified his decision to skip rugby for the weekend, as he chased a Ranger's clearance that struck a player and went up in the air, getting the header for the equaliser.
About 14 minutes later, Lockett was at it again as he followed up in the goal mouth to get his double and give City the edge right before the break.
"At halftime we spoke about being calm on the ball," said Francis.
However, Rangers drew level around 20 minutes into the half after another good push by them to change the momentum back in their favour.
"But we played well after that," said Francis.
A Dan Aplin header was just taken off the line by the keeper, then Latham Berry slammed a great strike from 35m out, only for the keeper to get up in the far corner to make the save of the game.
But City weren't through as eight minutes from fulltime, Aplin, Lockett and Max Davidson dealt the ball between them from the middle of the pitch and had a crack, which opened up a chance for Ngapeka to get a touch and he delivered with the match-winner.
Francis opted to award the whole squad with man of the match honours.
"It was a good trip home, we're stoked to have done the double."
Meanwhile, the return of Ryan Holden from England could not have been timed better as his injury time penalty took GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic to a 3-2 win over Hokowhitu FC at Wembley to get payback for April's 2-0 loss.
"It wasn't the prettiest game," said coach Jason King.
"We did what we do well, controlled play for a bit.
"We settled into a good ticker, people commented we've never had a good second half, but we had a good second half [today]."
Jordan Gilmore opened the scoring with a beautiful shot from distance which the Hokowhitu keeper read but could not keep under control.
The visitors replied before halftime, and then in the 63rd minute Quinn Mailman took another step up the Golden Boot ladder when the goal keeper tried to take him on in the field to clear the ball.
"Quinn just stole it off him," said King.
"Every keeper has a bad day at the office, it just happened to be his day."
Nonetheless, Hokowhitu equalised for 2-2 and then it was clear they were happy to play for the draw, but with Holden having come off the bench, Athletic were determined to keep trying and got the whistle in their favour in the box after 92 minutes, with the Holden shaking off the jet lag to send it home.
Picking up the three points, Athletic are still too far back to catch leaders Palmerston North Marist, but Marist beating North End AFC means the chance to finish runnerup for the season is still there, as it was in 2017 until Athletic dropped their last two matches.
"It's starting to feel like shades of last season, in a way," said King.
"We go down to Massey this weekend and then we've got Marist and another chance to prove ourselves."
Athletic will meet North End twice to end the season – the home game on July 28 and then the rescheduled away match the following weekend.
In the Horizons Premiership, the GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves managed to hold Palmerston North Boys High to a 3-all draw at Wembley, despite being eighth on the 10-team table, whereas leaders PNBHS had won all their previous eight games.
In the GR Engineering Women's Federation League, winless Football Whanganui at least brought some fight to unbeaten Massey down on their home turf, losing 8-3, which is the most goals they have scored in a game this year.