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Nichols Goal Glut downs South

Clarence Zebras head into the 17th round of the My State Women’s Super League with a ladder lead of 16 points and a winning streak of the last 6 games.

It was always going to be a tough mountain to climb for South Hobart, whose side suffered a number of simultaneously injured players in early rounds. The Zebras unstoppable form proved too much for South Hobart to handle in an 8-2 loss at D’Arcy Street. It was a youthful Clarence Zebras that coach Ronnie Bolton included in this game against South, with a number of the State Selected under 16 youth players an inclusion to an experienced squad.

It took Zoe Nichols just 37 seconds from kick-off to get the scoring started for Clarence Zebras. The chemistry between Nichols and Allie Berry paying off yet again as we have seen so many times this season, as they weaved their way together between the South Hobart defence passing almost telepathically to each other’s feet. Nichols bullishly breaking through to net her first of the game. Zebras pressed hard into the first half, giving South little chance to breakthrough. When they did, they met with Selena Steventon on the backline. After ten minutes, it was the dynamic duo again, as Allie Berry shirked any possible challenges, meeting Nichols awaiting reliably in the goalmouth to double her account.

Allie Berry was part of the Zebras strike force. Picture: Solstice Digital

After Eleni Moustatsos was taken to the sidelines, suffering a worrying knock to the knee, there was a short delay in play. The action soon resumed, when in the 22nd minute, Zoe Nichols, after receiving a trademark curling ball from O’Brien, shocked the South backline again with an unstoppable run, directly past South Hobart’s keeper and rattling the back of the net with a forceful strike.

It was current league goal scorer Berry who bagged herself the fourth goal of the game after Nichols, surrounded by defenders sent a through-ball to Taylor Rand. Rand subsequently planted the ball to Berry who pounced on the opportunity. Zebras continued the offensive as Georgia Stalker chipped the ball to her speedy sister Caitlin on the wing. The high ball chipped over the head of Allie Berry but met Lou Marmion at the back post to make it 5-0 to Clarence Zebras.

Heading into the end of the first half, Zebras eased their foot off the gas. This allowed South Hobart to gain some possession and get some time in front of the goal. There were some moments of brilliance from the South Hobart side, but they struggled to find any scoring chances.

It was difficult to see where South Hobart could come back in the second half from a 5 goal deficit against the dangerous Zebras as they headed into the break.

Half Time: Clarence Zebras 5 (Nichols ‘1, 11′, 21′, Berry 26′, Marmion 33’) South Hobart 0

South Hobart came out fighting in the second half after Clarence Zebras adopted a more relaxed style of play. While Zebras seemed content with their 5 goal lead, South Hobart found their spark. Putting pressure on Zebras’ defence early on, saw more action in their half as South pushed on. A delay in play as Sophie Fone was struck in the face with the ball, saw Zebras make a substitution to bring youngster Grace Pollard into play.

It was the persistence by Pischon Choi that gave South their first goal of the game, managing to weave around a number of Zebras players to find Eve Swain waiting to take the spoils. This gave South more motivation to create opportunities and put pressure on the youngsters that Bolton had introduced.

South Hobart’s Pishon Choi, created South Hobart’s first chance. Picture: Solstice Digital

Unfortunately for South Hobart, Allie Berry broke thorough again, crossing the ball to Zoe Nichols who scored her fourth of the game with a backheel flick that found its way past the keeper. South Hobart continued to fight on, with a cracking strike by Jasmine Roland in the 86th minute, an excellent way to score her first-ever Women’s Super League goal.

Zoe Nichols after her fourth goal of the day. Picture: Solstice Digital

Zebras didn’t take long to answer as the difference was increased again by a forceful strike by Nichols, her fifth of the game. A foiled challenge on Zebras’ Elianna Diafokeris caused referee, Nick Gunson to point at the penalty spot. Steventon, Zebras appointed penalty taker, stepped up to slam it home and to an 8-2 victory for Clarence Zebras.

Full Time: Clarence Zebras 8 (Nicholls ‘1, 11′, 21′ 81′ 86′. Berry, 26′. Marmion, 33′. Steventon 89′ pen) South Hobart 2 (Swain, 69’. Roland, 85′)

Clarence Zebras captain, Mady O’Brien attributed the win to the connections up front. “I feel for South Hobart because they didn’t deserve to lose by that margin. Unfortunately for them, we just had a strong game on the day.”

The goal-scoring performance by Nichols in this game was enough for her to take the golden boot lead in the 2021 Women’s Super League from her scoring partner, Allie Berry.

Clarence Zebras now go 18 points clear at the top of the WSL, with Devonport Strikers now in second after reigning champions, Olympia FC were defeated at home by Kingborough. This means that Clarence Zebras are the Women’s Super League Champions for 2021. They have opted to save the fanfare, however, until their next home game at Wentworth Park on 21st August.