Slice of Cheese

Strikers Claim Lakoseljac Cup

Solstice Photography

The Devonport Strikers claimed their second Lakoseljac Cup triumph in 3 years, downing South Hobart 1-0 just as they did back in 2016. This time it was Miles ‘The Fox in the Box’ Barnard, living up to his name by poking home from close range in the first half to score the games lone goal.

Spaniard, Guillermo Lazcano, was adjudged the best afield for an utterly dominant display in the heart of defence, as the Strikers held out against a late South Hobart push to claim the victory in what proved a physical decider.

It was the Strikers who started the sharper of the two sides, exploding out of the blocks and pegging South Hobart back deep with their relentless pressure. Joel Stone and Beau Blizzard set the tone with some crunching challenges and a furious press saw them boss the opening twenty minutes of the game. Even the usually unflappable Kieran Brown looked uncharacteristically shaky in goals, opting to punch on a couple of occasions when he could have caught the ball. The tenacity of the Strikers seemed to catch South off guard, with Devonport looking the hungrier side for the contest.

It was a physical battle- Solstice Photography

Devonport found their reward for their sharp start, 15 minutes into the match as Gediminas Krusa swung in a free kick which Brayden Mann flicked on to Barnard, his initial header was saved by Brown, but Barnard pounced on the rebound and stroked home to give his side the lead.

Barnard was a fitting scorer of the games lone goal, his work as a target man over the course of the 90 was phenomenal. For the most part the Strikers employed a fairly direct style rather than playing out from the back. The head of Miles Barnard was therefore a frequent outlet and he took the honours in his running aerial duel with Dan Brown. Time after time, Barnard flicked on, or won a header down to a teammate, and brought them into the game. It was a commanding display from Barnard and he was one of the best players on the pitch.

Barnard was a beast in the air- Solstice Photography

Having been jumped, South started to work their way back into the contest as the half wore on, with the Brazilian De Vecchi Marins aiming to seize the initiative and haul his side back into the game. He started to make some inroads with a couple of mazy runs seeing him skipping round defenders and could well have had a penalty on the half hour mark as he was felled in the box, referee Kopra deciding the defender got some ball first.

For all Devonport’s seeming control of the game they weren’t creating a heap of chances, despite their territorial dominance. Mann came close with an acrobatic volley from the top of the box, but South were holding on grimly. Whilst the absence of Oscar Thomas may have hurt their ability to curtail Barnard in the air, Jack Bowman had an excellent game deputizing for him, and given the time they spent under pressure the defensive unit of South can’t be faulted for the eventual defeat.

They gave the side a chance with some backs to the wall defending and it could have been 1-1 heading into the sheds as Alex Walter slipped on the ball at the most inopportune of moments, as he found himself one on one with Pitchford.

The resumption of play for the second half saw a familiar pattern resume, with the chances not flowing but the challenges certainly were. It was a really physical battle, not just due to the many aerial duels, but the tackles were flying in forcefully.

South started to see some more of the ball and pushed hard for a way back into the game, but this invited danger back the other way and with less numbers back and a higher defensive line, Devonport had room to operate in.

With Kieran Brown caught in no mans land having coming flying out at the ball but having a fresh air swing, Michael Holden had the goal at his mercy as he turned and fired a looping effort from 40 yards out on the non preferred. Mercifully for South and excruciatingly for Holden, it crashed back down off the post and stayed out, much to the relief of Brown.

It was as close as the Strikers came to extending their lead as the second half was a more even affair, shaded slightly by Devonport, but they certainly faced a lot more pressure in their own end. But South couldn’t find a way through, with Guillermo Lazcano producing an absolute tour de force in the heart of defence. He made a series of brilliantly executed sliding challenges over the course of the game and absolutely bullied the South Hobart attackers in the air.

Lazcano was adjudged player of the game- Solstice Photography

With Beau Blizzard also excelling in the defensive midfield role in front of the defence, they had another layer of protection which South simply couldn’t solve. Despite pushing hard as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, just as it did in 2016, the yellow wall would not yield.

Coach Chris Gallo paid credit to his players speaking to the Advocates Brad Cole post game,

“I’m so proud of the players because they worked so hard to get us there.”

“I felt like we could have killed the game off in the first half if we had of taken our chances, but South are a good team and had some patches of possession in the second half.

“However I thought once we got possession, we went forward with it a lot more and were more effective.”

The Strikers are headed back to the FFA Cup- Solstice Photography

A joyful Rod Andrews hugs his coach- Solstice Photography

Post game celebrations- Solstice Photography