Versatile Wanganui City FC were able to lift a big weight from their shoulders after another high scoring second-half with New Plymouth Rangers saw them pull away for a 4-2 win at Pukekura Park on Sunday.
City (5-3-3) had been annoyed at themselves when they had to fight to save their previous Lotto Federation League game with the Taranaki team, 6-all at Wembley Park on June 15, having expected to bank the full three points against the lower table side (2-1-8).
Their injured co-coach Anthony Bell was pleased to see that Rangers had taken note of GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic coach Jason King's frustration in his team's 3-2 away loss a fortnight ago, when no car park had been allocated for the visitors at Pukekura and they couldn't warm up on the field.
"It was like a chauffeur - car park all coned out, right outside the changing rooms, it was a lot better than what Jason experienced," said Bell.
"No complaints about the pitch. It was a spectacular day, to be fair."
Despite getting a better warmup, City did not make the best start, being sloppy with their possession early, with no goals scored before halftime.
"After a bit of travel, the boys were still on the bus [mentally]," said Bell.
"I said, 'just keep playing the football, keep the ball on the deck, and it will come'."
The team's code-hopper Jake Lockett, playing club rugby then club football on consecutive days, opened the scoring in the 62nd minute with another goal from sneaking in on a defender's pass back to the goalkeeper – making it five goals in just four appearances for Lockett so far this season.
Rangers hit back six minutes later to level the scores, but City seemed to have wrapped the match up with back-to-back goals in the 70th-71st minutes.
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First, man of the match Adam Gill made an excellent score after he beat three defenders in the midfield and then fed his pass out to Jordan Joblin-Hall, before running to the post and leaping for the cross kick to header the ball into the back of the net.
Keeping the pressure on, City went right back down there again and Kyle Graham-Luke had a good chance, with his strike deflecting off a Rangers defender for an own goal.
As they are prone to do, Rangers would not quick trying and when City couldn't clear the ball from a scramble in the box after a corner kick, the home side had pulled it back to 3-2 with ten minutes left.
Remembering the draw at Wembley, City were suitably tense, but with three minutes left in regulation time, Joblin-Hall worked the ball up and came into the box, where he took advantage of a kind bounce to hammer home the match-winner.
"The boys were really pumped with a win there. Come off, emotions were high," said Bell.
"We just want to keep that confidence going."
Bell said the team can still find another gear, although they had to work hard on Sunday after an injury to Jack Jonas in the 20th minute meant an on-field reshuffle of players.
Dan Aplin moved into Jonas' spot and had an excellent game, while the veteran Chris Annabell was available to come off the bench and play his part.
Getting the three points away from home and moving on from the disappointment of June's draw, City are now all set up for a season-defining fortnight of football.
First, will be this Saturday's return derby game with Wanganui Athletic, and the following Saturday will be their home Lotto Federation Cup quarterfinal with Hawke's Bay's Western Rangers.
It was not a good Saturday in the Horizons Premiership for the GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves, beaten 5-2 at Wembley Park by then-bottom table Takaro 1sts, meaning Athletic now slip back to last place, two points behind Takaro and tied with North End AFC, who have the better differential.