After 270 minutes of football, defending Women's Federation League champions Palmerston North Marist were finally able to separate from their Team Ritesh Football Whanganui rivals after a 1-0 win in a flat game at Wembley Park on Sunday.
Having drawn twice in their previous meetings this season, both 2-all, Marist became just the second team to beat Whanganui in League play after the table-topping Hokowhitu, which means the home side have slumped to consecutive defeats for the first time, both at Wembley.
With another rearranged lineup as Dana McClelland returned to the run-on XI on one wing, skilful Alice Ireton started to play the whole match and Emma Wood was tried on the other wing, Whanganui were able to open up chances even in the face of Marist's conservative style.
Unlike Hokowhitu or even Whanganui themselves, who like a good pass-and-run game, Marist showed why they have had more draws than any League team this season (six), by constantly looking to the sideline throughout the first half, whether on defence or on the midfield wings.
It made the match very stop-start with Marist able to reset for set pieces off the throw-in's, and conserving energy as 45 minutes ticked by with maybe the ball in play for 35 of them.
Marist also backed their defence from the midfield as Whanganui pushed forward, hoping to secure a key turnover so that a couple of their speedy forwards good possibly get the breakaway to bang one home.
Whanganui favour a more spread field, which meant the likes of top goal scorer Vanya Apiata-Hodgkinson, Candice Armstrong and Ireton, backed up by Ashley Cowley coming forward, were having to make their way through a lot of 3 vs 5 situations.
The plan was to shift wide to the speedy Wood and McClelland, who after Apiata-Hodgkinson and Ireton had done the passing work in the midfield, would send the ball out and head towards the box hoping for the decisive pass.
However, despite finding promising space throughout, Whanganui's wingers still have the habit of hard touches when the ball comes their way, bringing chasing defenders back into contention to get the steal.
Whanganui's other best opportunities were from corners, where Ireton curved some brilliant kicks right into the Marist goal-mouth and head height, but Apiata-Hodgkinson and Wood just missed one first-half chance by inches as they both slid on their backs over the line with the ball bouncing past them.
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Coming into the second half, a fresh and composed Marist lifted their intensity and brought on more attack-orientated players – not discouraged by putting a couple of breakaway shots over the crossbar and hitting it once on each side of halftime, while goalie Megan O'Connor successfully defended a free kick just outside the box.
Momentum shifted to both sides for sustained periods, and Marist finally made theirs count approaching the final quarter of the match, after Whanganui were seemingly safe when they had cleared the ball back to halfway.
However, another turnover hand Marist's striker up front all alone and she timed her shot right to just clear the lowering left hand of O'Connor to send the ball rolling into the goal.
It still seemed like Whanganui could crack an equaliser as they had room to move coming out of their own half, although Ireton was angered after she was felled in a couple of tough tackles without a penalty being offered.
Likewise, Armstrong copped a heavy whack on her back in a challenge for the ball, but play carried on.
The officials had their eyes on the throw-in's, ruling two fouls against Whanganui and one for Marist for a foot in play.
After one of the many good passing exchanges between the forwards, most of which were ultimately undone by hard touches or good defence, Apiata-Hodgkinson finally had the space to clear her marker and run left-to-right to work around the Marist keeper.
She timed her shot perfectly to send the ball to an open goal-mouth, only to hear the clang as it struck the bottom left-hand post.
With the intermittent rain also setting in, Whanganui's frustration mounted as they ran out of time and opportunities, as Marist parked the bus on defence and showed good order to close out the match.
Whanganui coach Matt Calvert took a moment to expend some pent up emotion at fulltime by kicking the game ball as hard as he could from near halfway towards the clubrooms end goal.
"The moments when you've got to be ruthless, it just wasn't, really," he said.
"Good, even game in the first half, thought we were unlucky not to be ahead.
"In the second half, just struggled to break them down. Just a bit disjointed, really."
He agreed the hard touches and narrow misses on some wide passes had prevented them for sustaining pressure for long enough, so the law of averages would have been on their side for forcing a goal.
"The ideas were right, but the execution wasn't quite there."
Whanganui will now get a bit of a break for the school holidays and while the GR Engineering Federation Cup semifinals are being held on July 21, when League teams Taradale FC and Massey University will meet in one fixture, while Taranaki's Moturoa AFC takes on Gisborne's Riverina AFC in the other.
In a preview of that weekend, Taradale picked up a 2-1 win at home over Massey on Sunday, while Hokowhitu's game with winless Feilding United was deferred.
Whanganui (4-4-3) still hold second spot on the League points table, although both Marist (3-6-2) and Taradale (4-3-3) have closed to within a point after the start of the third round of games.