Slice of Cheese

Lakoseljac Cup Final Preview

Solstice Photography

The rematch of 2016 is upon us, as South Hobart and Devonport prepare to duke it out in the 2018 Lakoseljac Cup final. Glory, and the all important FFA Cup Round of 32 spot awaits the victor, in what looms as a hotly anticipated decider between two sides in fine form, playing entertaining brands of football. It’s second meets third on the NPL table and a battle of the two most dominant sides in Tasmania over the past 2.5 years.

South Hobart started the season slowly, slipping to the unfamiliar depths of 7th place after 4 rounds. From there, their form has picked up significantly, drawing 0-0 against Launceston City in a game they really should have won, before winning 6 games on the bounce to send them into this game in imposing form.

The Strikers also enter this one in good touch, winning 8 from their last 9 games including a 2-1 win over South at Darcy Street back in April. There have been some narrow wins in that stretch, but after leaving some points on the table early in the season, they have shown the killer instinct that defined them in 2016, to move back into second place on the NPL table.

South have an affinity for this competition, this occasion will mark their sixth trip to the Lakoseljac Cup Final in the last 9 Years! They currently boast a 4-1 record in those finals, with the only team to beat them on the big day… Devonport.

That was the 2016 final, which South will be out to avenge. The man who scored the winner on that day, Adam Gorrie, is now in South colours, offering a wonderful sub plot to the final that Brad Cole from the Advocate, explored earlier this week. 

There are so many similarities between these sides, stylistically, both teams are predicated on moving the ball fast, springing quick transitions and using the full width of the pitch to pull defences from side to side. Both teams utilise switching diagonal balls to devastating effect, with their full backs looking to jump up into the attack at every opportunity. This is especially the case down the right, where both sides don’t have a pure right winger as such, and instead try and provide space for their attack minded right backs to bomb into. Both teams utilise the press when teams try to play out from the back against them and both probably carry their biggest threat when they can launch those sharp counter attacks having drawn the opposition onto them.

Given those similar styles it’s perhaps no surprise they have similar personnel as well.  Both teams run deep, with class littered throughout the line ups, yet looming large over this contest are the two front men for their sides. In Brayden Mann and Renato De Vecchi Marins, these sides posses the two most dominant players in the State so far in 2018. There is a reason clubs around the world play all sorts of insane fees for attackers, so often the end result comes down to who is sharper in the final third. These two are in the type of form that could see them take over this final, and win it for their sides off their own boot if they are on song.

For the Strikers, Brayden Mann is as clinical as they come, a man with insatiable appetite for goals who has an extraordinary 20 goals in 12 games this season. His record in the Lakoseljac Cup is staggering, scoring 28 times in his last 16 cup games! Mann has been the premiere striker in the state for the best part of the last decade, and he might just be having his best season yet, which is a scary proposition given what he has previously achieved.

Mann battling away in the 2016 decider- Solstice Photography

But South posses a major strike weapon of their own, the mercurial Brazlian, the mesmerising Renato De Vecchi Marins. He has helped change the direction of South’s season and left the majority of defenders he has come up against, utterly in his wake. His ability to shift quickly from side to side and lightning fast feet have seen him light up the league. He may not be as pure of a goalscorer as Mann, but he is a creative force capable of making KGV his own personal playing pitch.

De Vecchi tore the Zebras apart in the Quarter Final- Solstice Photography

To paint both sides as dependant on one player up top would be misleading though, whilst they are match winners, both teams have a number of quality attacking weapons to augment the threat they carry in the final third. Wide men, Michael Holden and Alex Walter, would probably be the first wingers named if you were picking a Tasmanian State side. Their ability to run at and beat defenders with their power and pace down the flanks is a major creative outlet, whilst both carry significant goal threats. These are two of the best attackers in the state and could be match winners given they will be running at two opposing right backs who can get caught out given the proclivity for bombing on.

The rest of the attack is less nailed on, Joel Stone looms as a likely starter after reclaiming his starting spot in the past couple of weeks and one suspects Gallo was sending a message to him to try and have Stone at his best for this game. One of the best dribblers in the business, Stone is a game breaker and a flair player who can unlock defences. Ryan Cook is likely to be the third in attack for South and is a young player still finding his feet but has a lovely technique as you can seem from the video below he is a threat from range.

Another goal threat for Devonport comes in form of Miles Barnard. Chris Gallo has been deploying Barnard in a target man type role, a player whose function is to bring the best out of those around him, as well as offering a threat in the air. The ‘Fox in the Box’ is an unconventional player, but he does his best work when the ball hits the deck in the penalty area and has a happy knack of scoring key goals. South have a similar threat in Jack Turner, whilst he will start from deeper and mainly provide the steel and grunt in the middle, his ability to ghost into the box and be in the right spot at the right time is uncanny. Turner has scored 16 goals in 19 NPL games for South since coming into the team midway through last season, an extraordinary return for a midfielder.

Speaking of good returns from midfield, Nick Morton may have scored at a slower clip this season, firing in 6 goals in 12 games, after scoring 19 from 21 last year, but remains an ever present threat. He might be the best distance shooter in the state which has seen defences adapt and press up on him to close down his shooting lanes. That opens up space for others and Morton has shown a selflessness this season in providing them with chances.

Morton carries a major threat shooting from distance- Solstice Photography

The midfield battle will be crucial and trying to curb the influence of Morton and Turner will be Devonport’s Beau Blizzard. Previously deployed in a more attacking role, Blizzard has taken on more defensive responsibilities this season and his adapted to the role like a duck to water. His no nonsense, physical style has complemented the Strikers playmakers nicely and added the grit that their midfield needs. He is more than a destroyer though, when in possession he is capable of dictating play and like Turner is for South, he is very much a two way player.

Rounding out the midfield groups, each side has a cool composed, foreigner, who keeps things ticking over in the engine room. For South, the Frenchmen Loic Feral who will be charged with shielding the back four and shutting down counter attacks before they can develop. He excels at breaking up the play and whilst he lacks leg speed, his experience allows him to read the play expertly. For Devonport, the Lithuanian Gediminas Krusa is a pure striker of the ball and from deep positions he can play some lovely long passes for his speedy attackers to run onto. Starting the season as the deepest of the Strikers midfielders, Krusa has been deployed in slightly more advanced roles in recent times, and has been released into more of a play making role which makes good use of his fine range of passing.

Whilst the front men loom as the most likely pair to have a decisive say in the victory,  both teams have defences capable of shutting down the star attackers. That task is going to be made more difficult for South though, as they have been handed a cruel blow by the University of Tasmania, with Isaac Degetto and Oscar Thomas sitting exams at the same time as the game. That leaves an enormous hole for South to fill in the middle of their defence as Thomas has been a standout so far this season. Coach Ken Morton has two alternatives, the unproven, but younger Jack Bowman, or the veteran Hugh Ludford, who has not got many minutes in his legs this season but brings a wealth of experience. Each option represents a gamble one way or another, and it’s less than ideal, meaning Dan Brown will be called upon to step up and produce the type of commanding display he is known for.

The absence of Thomas is a huge blow- Solstice Photography

The Strikers have had a scare of their own in the middle of their defence, with Spaniard Guillermo Lazcano battling a hamstring injury and sending a shiver through the Strikers faithful when he pulled up short against Olympia last week. Coach Chris Gallo has affirmed he is right to play and compared to him to Tottenham legend Ledley King, as someone who doesn’t train much, just gets his body right for the games. Like King, Lazcano is the type of talent that you can justify picking if he says he is good to go, training be damned! Partnering him will be Kieran Mulraney who is having an outstanding season and is one of the more underrated defenders going around. South like to play long switching diagonals to spring their wingers in behind, so Mulraney’s aerial ability will be important in cutting them out before they can develop.

On either side of the central defences, the fullbacks will undoubtedly have a key say in proceedings Both teams are quite similar in the way they deploy them. Both coaches encourage their full backs to bomb on and overlap and that is especially the case down the right hand side. Adam Gorrie, the form full back in the state over the past 2 years has endeared himself to the Darcy Street faithful just as he did the Valley Road crowd with his phenomenal work rate, charging tirelessly down the wing. Then the man who replaced him at Devonport is practically a clone, in young Eddie Bidwell who shares some similar traits and it’s a testament to Bidwell that Devonport have not missed such a talent as Gorrie since his departure. Both full backs will probably look to spend more time in attack than in defence and will likely be the two players who send the most crosses into the box.

Eddie Bidwell has been a revelation at Right back for the Strikers- Solstice Photography

On the left Schmidt and Smith are probably more defensively responsible and will stay at home slightly more often, but both are capable of contributing in attack when called upon. Smith paved two assists for Mann last week with raking cross field balls whilst Schmidt has spent time in midfield showing his versatility and his recent goal against the Zebras showcased his threat in attack.

Behind the defences will be the men between the sticks, and both sides will have tremendous confidence in their glove-men to bail them out if called upon. Kieran Brown had lost his place to Graham Wright at the start of the season, but after working his way back in, he has not looked back and has turned in some stunning displays in recent weeks. At the tender of age of just 19, Brown exudes a calmness and confidence that belies his years. For the Strikers, at the age of 29, Nathan Pitchford is the more experienced keeper and he is rounding into some strong form. An athletic keeper, Pitchford does better than most at protecting the high shots to the top corners due to his reach and strong diving skills. Both keepers are a strength for their respective sides and it will take a quality shot to beat either one.

Brown exudes confidence in net for someone so young- Solstice Photography

With so much talent on display, this game has all the makings of a cup classic, the two most recent league champions, stacked with talent preparing to duke it out. Neither of them has played a game at KGV so far this season, though the size of the pitch should suit both teams based on how they like to set up. Whoever scores first in this game will be in the box seat to win, because both sides love it when opposing teams have to chase the game against them. We could well have a cagey opening till there is a goal, then the game could open right up and the excitement levels will be raised. You don’t want to miss this one, so get yourself to KGV on Monday and drink in what should be an absolute classic.

Squads

Devonport:

1 Nathan Pitchford

3 Dominic Smith

4 Eddie Bidwell

5 Guillermo Lazcano

6 Jesse William Dance

8 Kieran Mulraney

9 Brayden Mann

10 Michael Holden

12 Beau Blizzard

13 Jayden Last

14 Miles Barnard

14 Alexander Mason

16 Henry Andrews

17 Joel Stone

19 Gediminas Krusa

21 Thomas Pearce

22 Kynan West

25 Knott, Liam

Coach: Chris Gallo

Assistant: Nick Owen

SOUTH HOBART

1 – Kieran Brown

2 – Connor Schmidt

3 – Adam Gorrie

4 – Jack Bowman

5 – High Ludford

6 – Loic Feral

7 – Nick Morton

8 – Jack Turner

9 – Pajari Sculthorpe

10. Alex Walter

11. – Ryan Cook

12. – Harrison Thomas

13 – Keenan Douce

16 – Daniel Brown

18 Renato De Vecchi Marins

21 Graham Wright

Coach Ken Morton

Assistant Coach Nick LaPolla