Versatile Tasman United defender Sam Ayers thrives under new coach
If there is one player in particular that has welcomed the change at Tasman United, it's Sam Ayers.
A consistent performer for Nelson Suburbs in the Mainland Premier League across the past decade and versatile enough to do a job in any outfield position, Ayers seemed like such an obvious fix for Tasman's defensive woes.
Yet most weeks he found himself on the bench or out of the match day squad altogether, and there was very little communication from previous coach Richard Anderson as to why.
Ayers made just three starts in the first 13 rounds under Anderson and said it was frustrating watching from the sidelines, especially as the 27-year-old has waited for so long for a Nelson team to return to the Stirling Sports Premiership.
"The biggest frustration was the lack of reasoning and communication," he said.
"It wasn't just me, it was other people as well. You just don't know how to improve or what you need to do."
Ayers said he never doubted his ability and did not consider throwing in the towel, he just continued working hard at training in the hope that his effort would be noticed.
"I never thought about leaving. A lot of the people that have left are from out of town so it was quite a big commitment for them," he said.
"There's other people who were in the same situation and they turned up week by week and you didn't want to let them down."
But as soon as Davor Tavich took over as head coach, he switched the formation from Anderson's preferred 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 and made Ayers his first-choice left-back.
When he was told by Tavich that he would be starting against Waitakere, Ayers said he just wanted to do the basics well and build from there. So the fact he was selected by his coach as Tasman's man of the match in their recent win over Wanderers, he's certainly making the most of the second chance.
Looking back on the 1-0 result, which was Tasman's second victory of the season, Ayers said the most pleasing aspect was the fact they were able to keep their first clean sheet, the milestone taking 15 games to achieve.
"At halftime that's what we said, we were up so we just needed to keep that clean sheet and if we did that we'd win the game.
"I think there were more comments about that after the game than there were about the win itself because that's more or less been our downfall. With attacking and general play we feel like we've really competed, but we've definitely been giving away soft goals."
Tasman face a tough task at Trafalgar Park this Sunday, hosting an in-form Eastern Suburbs side that have won three of their past four games and now sit third on the table, only shaded by Auckland City and Team Wellington on goal differential.
But although they sit at opposite ends of the ladder, Ayers said Tasman do not fear Eastern, especially after pushing them so close in their previous meeting where they lost 4-2 after conceding two late goals.
"That's probably one of the better games we've had all season, particularly that first half. So if we can replicate that, and the defence from last week, we're pretty confident we can get a good result out of it."