Tasman United sink to the bottom, punished for defensive frailty
OPINION: Tasman United have hit the bottom of the Stirling Sports Premiership.
The form guide reads LLLLL as Tasman fell to a Stephen Hoyle dagger deep in injury time at Trafalgar Park on Sunday, big brother Canterbury United running back to Christchurch with all three points after scoring a last gasp winner with just seconds to spare.
It was heartbreak for Tasman whose barren run appeared to be reaching its conclusion. But the pressure told in the end, unable to hold on for what would have been a second valuable point against their Mainland Football rivals, losing 3-2 - coach Richard Anderson's desire for his team to be more ruthless in the box ringing loud and clear.
Tasman's fate is becoming predictable every weekend. They push teams close, earn plaudits for their attacking capabilities but continue to cough up easy goals - and that is what is costing them points, now four wins adrift of the top four as their playoff hopes slip further away.
Ultimately, without points Tasman will continue to slide down the ladder but they have now reached rock bottom in round 10 after leaking 2.7 goals per game. They are yet to keep a clean sheet.
When the pre-season commenced, the squad looked light in defensive personnel. Losing Mark Johnston to what could end up being a season ending injury before the first game kicked off was a cruel blow. Not only was Johnston a major part in the bidding process, Tasman's club captain is exactly the type of character they are missing on the field; a central defender with some experience.
Ten games later and he is yet to be replaced.
Though Daniel Allan has plenty of promise, the 20-year-old has certainly been thrown in the deep end in his debut season and could do with an experienced head next to him. He's started every game so far while one-cap All White Cameron Lindsay is plugging a gap and would be better served returning to the midfield, if only there was an alternative left - captain Paul Ifill was tried at the back with some success in previous rounds but may be reluctant to do so again.
The sight of Aaron Clapham waltzing through the defence with ease is a nightmare Tasman continue to relive. The Canterbury captain is one of the league's best players but that was an avoidable goal and a costly one too as he beat three defenders before beating Coey Turipa as well.
With Andre de Jong levelling after a poor clearance handed possession straight back to Canterbury, Clapham's strike gave them the advantage at halftime, handing all the momentum back to the visitors within the space of 60 seconds.
Anderson said at the start of the season that he was building a top heavy squad but a gritty no-nonsense defender who puts fear in the opposition strikers - someone in the mould of Ben Sigmund - is the piece to the puzzle Tasman desperately miss, a piece that may have just stopped Clapham in his tracks.
The good news is there are potentially winnable games on the horizon, facing the Wellington Phoenix reserves, Hawke's Bay United, Waitakere United and Hamilton Wanderers in succession. If Tasman can shore up their defence then there are still plenty of points to be won in the second half of the season. But they can't continue to make these simple errors if they plan to end the losing run at five games, learning pretty quickly that mistakes do get punished at this level.
It's just a worry that league leaders Auckland City are up next.