Skipper Jacob Spoonley feared Team Wellington were going to become another statistic on Saturday.
Their opponents at Westpac Stadium, Wanderers SC, had scored injury-time goals in each of their three previous matches - two of them to claim dramatic draws.
It appeared as though the comeback kids were going to pull it off again, when Elijah Neblett struck in the 75th minute to drag the deficit back to 3-2.
The Wanderers - who are basically the New Zealand side preparing for the 2015 under-20 World Cup - finished over the top of Wellington and goalkeeper Spoonley was far busier than he would have liked as they somehow clung on for the 3-2 win.
"Oh mate, they finished like a house on fire," Spoonley said.
"The game for us was probably 15, 20 minutes too long. We were looking comfortable at 3-1 but once they went for broke we panicked a little bit and we've got to manage that better next time."
It initially appeared as if it would be a straightforward assignment for Matt Calcott's men, who regained their spot in the national league top-four.
The Wanderers started anxiously and Henry Fa'arodo opened the scoring after eight minutes with an acrobatic volley.
Scott Doney equalised after 30 minutes before Cam Lindsay, with a neat run and finish, then Charlie Henry, from the penalty spot, opened up a two-goal buffer.
Spoonley, an All White who has A-League experience with the Wellington Phoenix, admitted the performance was very scratchy, particularly in defence.
He had no doubt about the individual talent in the squad, but they were yet to fire as a collective unit.
"It's an interesting dynamic what's going on with Team Wellington at the moment, you're in the shadow of the Phoenix and we've got that association with the Phoenix, but at the same time you want to establish your own identity," Spoonley said.
"That can't take place in four weeks. I think we're going to be fine. There's going to be a week where it clicks and we're going to fire and it's going to be impressive and send a message to the rest of the league and the wider football community in Wellington.
"But that hasn't come yet so we can't really say too much at the moment. I'm not going to write any cheques with my mouth that we can't cash."
Elsewhere, Waitakere United moved to the top of the ladder with a 3-0 win over WaiBop United.
Former Phoenix midfielder Tom Biss scored the winner in Hawke's Bay United's 1-0 defeat of Canterbury United.
- The Dominion Post
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