Ryan Stewart's tenure as Tasman United women's coach ends on a high
A dramatic 90th minute winner by Amelia Abbott has given Tasman United women's coach Ryan Stewart a fitting send off.
Abbott, one of the breakout stars in Tasman's second Mainland Women's Premier League campaign, produced some late magic as Tasman wrapped up the season with a thrilling 3-2 win over FC Twenty11 at Saxton Field on Saturday.
Stewart, who confirmed he will be stepping down as coach after two seasons at the helm in order to focus on playing and to spend more time his family and work, was ecstatic as Tasman concluded the 2017 with their fourth consecutive victory - their longest ever winning streak.
"It was like last year when we came back to beat Waimak 4-3 - we like to keep it thrilling in the final game," he said.
Despite an early goal to Tiana Williams putting them in front early, Tasman were forced to dig deep after FC took a surprise 2-1 halftime lead courtesy of goals to Zoe Eggleston-Archer and Frankie Morrow.
Captain Geena Gross stepped up to deliver a stunning long-range free kick, which brought the score level at 2-2, before Abbott sealed the deal in the dying seconds of the match.
The final round win means Tasman ended up in third place for the second straight year, collecting 25 points with a record of eight victories, one draw and seven defeats. Once again they were unable to take points off champions Coastal Spirit and runners-up Cashmere Technical.
Despite lacking "the cutting edge," Stewart is adamant that Tasman are inching closer to the top two, and he said the time was right to step down as coach, hoping a fresh face with fresh ideas can take the team to that next level.
"Someone will come in and take the reins and hopefully keep them going in the direction they are going," he said.
"It's been fantastic. I loved it. But sometimes a new voice is good and I think I've taken them as far as I can, and hopefully someone else can come in and push them that little bit further."
Williams and Matilda Dawson ended the season with eight goals apiece, making them the team's joint top goal-scorers.
Tasman United 3 (Tiana Williams, Geena Gross, Amelia Abbott) FC Twenty11 2 (Zoe Eggleston-Archer, Frankie Morrow) 2