Tasman United could not deliver the fairy-tale farewell for star striker Paul Ifill on Sunday.
With the play-off out of reach, the team travelled to West Auckland for their final match of the season against Waitakere United, looking to finish fifth on the National Football Championship table.
However, Waitakere ended a nine-match losing streak with a 5-3 victory at Trusts Arena.
Maksym Kowal and teenagers Mat Tod-Smith and Callan Elliot each netted one for the visitors, but a hat-trick by Waitakere striker Ryan Cain put the result beyond doubt.
The result meant Tasman finished sixth, one point behind Southern United.
While a disappointing end to the season, a highlight has been the emergence of a trio of talented teenagers.
Callan (18), Mat (19) and Lyle Matthysen (19), each played a pivotal part in Tasman United’s second season in the National Football Championship.
Callan and Mat made the ‘odd appearance’ last season, but the three became regulars this year in what they describe as a ‘tight knit team.’
Lyle, from Christchurch, moved to the region after being scouted playing for Cashmere Tech.
He says it has been a massive step up, but a great experience.
“It’s faster and more physical but I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Lyle says a highlight for him was the round 10 game against Canterbury United.
While the result wasn’t good, a 6-0 loss, Lyle says it was a special moment to play against friends and in front of family.
Callan recently returned to Nelson after finishing school at Rathkeale College in Wairarapa and was asked to re-join Tasman United after a handful of appearances from the bench.
“It’s been a big step up, you have to be a lot more fit in this league.”
While Mat has progressed from the Tasman youth side to the senior squad.
Lyle will go back to Christchurch to play for Cashmere Tech this winter while Callan will return to Wairarapa United and Mat will head to the United Kingdom for a holiday.
All three players hope to return for the 2018-19 season kicking off in October.
Coach Davor Tavich says he is “fairly pleased” with how the season has panned out.
“We were on track for the top four before having a few bad results.”
Davor says the team’s home form was particularly disappointing, ending their hopes of playing finals footy.
“We had a lot of home support so maybe the pressure just got to us a bit, it certainly wasn’t through lack of trying.”
Davor thanked the Nelson community for turning out in droves and he regretted not being able to deliver more results.
However, with four teenagers in the squad, the future looks bright for the United faithful.
“We had a really good balance of experience of youth and we hope to build on that next season.”