With 15 minutes remaining in Saturday's home clash with Waikato FC, Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott had all but given up thinking his team might qualify for back-to-back national grand finals.
Languishing mid-table, and battling to string together too many passes against Waikato, even a semifinal place seemed like it was disappearing into the distance.
But 11 minutes from from fulltime, Luke Rowe bundled the ball into Waikato's net from barely a metre out to establish a 1-0 lead which Calcott's men clung on to till the finish.
That was enough to keep Wellington in fifth place, in the nine-team competition, but within reach of fourth-placed Canterbury with five games to go.
"It was good to get a result, even if it wasn't the best performance in the world.
"It was just good to grind out a result, to be honest," Calcott said. "There's some results we need to be going our way . . . but we've just got to try and keep on a bit of a roll."
Waikato were coming off a 9-1 flogging by Waitakere United and were in no mood to be similarly generous at David Farrington Park on Saturday.
That made for a scrappy affair, as Waikato ripped into everything and Wellington began to worry about the man rather than the ball.
It was enough to have Calcott wondering if it was going to be his team's day.
"Oh yeah, that had crossed my mind. We got better as the game went on but, as I said, it still wasn't one of our best performances," he said.
"But we'd played better earlier in the season and got nothing out of it, so swings and roundabouts."
The reward for hanging in there came when substitute Tom Biss got a ball into the far post where Henry Fa'arodo nodded the ball down to an unmarked Rowe.
Wellington are away to last-placed YoungHeart Manawatu next Sunday.
- The Dominion Post
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