Team Taranaki's bleak season got even gloomier yesterday with a 3-2 loss to Wellington Olympic in a Central League soccer match played in atrocious conditions at New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium yesterday afternoon.
What made it harder to swallow was that Taranaki clawed its way back from 2-0 down at halftime to draw level with five minutes remaining then created opportunities to win its first match of the season.
But it wasn't to be with Olympic, now third on the competition table, robbing the home side of one competition point when scoring a late goal.
Olympic's winning goal just minutes from fulltime came from a Taranaki mistake inside its own half when it attempted to clear the ball.
Replacement striker Anthony Neonakis pounced on the opportunity, racing down the left flank to drill the ball into the side of the net from 20 metres. Neonakis celebrated by pulling his strip top off and running madly around in circles around his jubilant team-mates.
Olympic dominated for much of the first half, its game plan of attacking form out wide paying off with two goals.
The first came 27 minutes into the match from a Mikey Halikias free kick. Team-mate Jamie O'Connor headed the ball towards the goal, but Taranaki goalie Jeff Yates was up to the challenge, punching the ball back into play only to have Mickey Malivuk hammer it home.
An Olympic corner four minutes later connected with O'Connor's head close in, rocketing into the back of the net.
Taranaki battled well throughout the first half, but, beaten for pace, created few genuine chances when persisting to attack up the middle rather than out wide.
With the rain getting heavier and setting in, Taranaki launched its second-half fightback.
The desperate call of "what are we panicking for" early on from one Olympic player after one such attack signalled the capital side was rattled.
Taranaki continued to make the opposition defend and eventually Nick Betteridge put his team on the scoreboard 20 minutes into the second spell.
The captain's goal came from a lofted ball from Mark Bland that bounced in front and close to the goal mouth.
Taranaki maintained the pressure and levelled the scores from a corner kick which was headed into the net by Jared McElhannan, who was having his first game for the amber and blacks this season. McElhannan showed enough on the field yesterday to say he would be a valuable addition to the Team Taranaki ranks while Bland, Ben Brandt and Tyson Brandt played well and goalie Jeff Yates made a number of good saves.
Olympic was lucky to come away with a win, its sixth in the competition and lifting it to third behind Wellington's Western Suburbs and second-placed Miramar Rangers.
Taranaki was left to reflect on what might have been and will now head to Lower Hutt to play Stop Out on Saturday.