Canterbury United didn't produce the goods - Stephen Hoyle
Canterbury United striker Stephen Hoyle concedes the window of opportunity is closing to deliver stalwarts Dan Terris, Aaron Clapham and Tom Schwarz a deserved title.
The Dragons are out of finals contention, entering their last Stirling Sports Premiership match of the season against Team Wellington at English Park on Sunday.
Sixth placed Canterbury paid the price for a stuttering campaign, where they never won two matches in a row.
After making the top four last season, Canterbury weren't able to live up to their potential, albeit in an expanded league with three new clubs.
Englishman Hoyle, reflecting on his first season with the Dragons, said they hadn't produced what they were capable of.
Canterbury owed it to Terris, Clapham and Schwarz, the only centurions in the club's history, to start performing consistently next season and challenge the competition heavyweights.
Hoyle said a football career went so fast they couldn't accept a mid-table finish and needed to strive to be better in all areas.
"These three deserve a title in a Canterbury United shirt. Let's try and give them that. I want one as well.
"I honesty believe this season, as much as it hurts, we have to remain positive and think what can we do better next year at key moments to be a successful team again. I have no doubt we'll be a successful team again."
Hoyle identified Canterbury's sub-par home record and their inability to make the most of their scoring opportunities, which he took some responsibility for, as two of their weaknesses.
Canterbury gained just 11 points from a possible 24 at home, losing to lowly Hamilton Wanderers and Southern, while also drawing with Tasman.
They were stronger on the road, winning three matches and drawing against formidable Auckland City and Team Wellington.
"If we're taking a leaf out of the other club's books, we need to win those games next year and strengthen our home record. Our home performances haven't met the standards of our away performances."
Canterbury have scored 31 goals in 17 games [fourth equal in the league], but that figure is deceiving considering eight came from the penalty spot.
The Dragons only had themselves to blame in many of their losses, dominating the opposition, but not being able to make it count, squandering decent opportunities.
"I think we could have done more and been more clinical. When I look at my season, I don't think it's been as successful as I want it to be."
Hoyle, who scored seven goals, was predominantly used in a right wing role by coach Willy Gerdsen, rather than his preferred centre forward spot.
He wanted to play higher up the pitch, but said that required getting fitter and being able to press more on defence.
"That's not Willy's fault, that's my fault. Sometimes off the ball, I don't understand his press and potentially don't do his press as well as other players do. If I want to be the nine [goal-scoring forward], I need to improve on that."
Hoyle rated Gerdsen among the best coaches he had worked under. While the coach is naturally responsible for a team's results, he said it was unfair to shoulder the blame on him.
"I have 100 per cent faith in Willy as a coach and his ability. I think Canterbury get it right off the field.
"There's a lot of teams I could go to and I wouldn't improve. Playing in front of Willy, you're going to take steps forward in time with him coaching because people are improving under him."
Canterbury's board did a superb job looking after out of town players and Hoyle said the players had let them down on the pitch.
Hoyle is remaining in Christchurch after gaining employment as Nomad United's first football development officer.
He planned to meet Gerdsen next week and was committed to the Dragons and wanted to remain with the team long-term.
The 24-year-old scored 10 goals for WaiBop United last season, the third most in the league. He wanted to be known as a reliable performer, who was a proven goal scorer year-to-year.
"I don't want to be 35 and be the guy, who scored double figures in one season. I want to be the 35-year-old, who has a record like [former Canterbury marksman] Russell Kamo.
"There's a lot of players in our league, who have one season, two seasons, where they're a top player and they fade away. Clapham is permanent class. When I get to 30, I'd like people to say that about me."
Hoyle noted Canterbury's player budget was well below the likes of Auckland City, Team Wellington, new Auckland club, Eastern Suburbs, and Waitakere.
He reckoned Hawke's Bay, who should make the finals for the fifth straight season, were on a similar level to Canterbury, in terms of their finances and ability of their squad.
While he didn't want to use that as an excuse, he said it needed to be taken into perspective. Mainland Premier League players like Andreas Wilson, Aaron Spain, Danny Knight, Roddy Lockhart and Sebastian Schacht had all developed this season and would only benefit from the experience.
*Canterbury are down on firepower against Team Wellington with Felix Komolong [international duty with Papua New Guinea], Andre de Jong [rejoined his New South Wales Premier League side in Australia] and Juan Chang [suspended for five yellows] all missing.
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury United v Team Wellington
English Park; Sunday 4.35pm