Slice of Cheese

Resurgent Strikers roll past South

South Hobart have suffered their first loss of the NPL Tasmania season with a 2-0 defeat to the Devonport Strikers at Darcy Street. The visitors had the better of the play for the majority of the game and finally found their reward when Brody Denehey’s header found the back of the net with 15 minutes left. South pushed hard for an equaliser before a late red card to goalkeeper Nicholas O’Connell sapped their momentum, allowing the Strikers to seal their win with a stoppage-time goal from Jordan Lamb.

Away from home and with a typically raucous Darcy Street crowd against them, the Strikers still started strongly from kick-off. They almost stole an early lead when Eddie Bidwell’s long ball was brought down at the edge of the area by Denehey, but his shot skimmed the crossbar and flew over the top. South Hobart tried to attack down the wings and crossed on occasion, but Devonport goalkeeper Nathan Pitchford patrolled the air well to cut out any danger. Their only clear shot in the half came from a long Nick Morton free kick, with the South captain’s curling effort well off target.

It looked like the Strikers might have taken the lead less than ten minutes before the break when Joel Stone’s cross into traffic was bundled over the line. O’Connell was fouled by Miles Barnard in the process, though, meaning the goal was disallowed and the score remained deadlocked at the half-time whistle.

It was more of the same as the second half kicked off with the visitors spending plenty of time in their attacking half. A patient build-up just after the hour mark gave Denehey another chance to shoot, but his effort from a tight angle crashed harmlessly into the side netting. Already on the back foot, South were dealt a further blow minutes later when Joshua Divin was forced from the field after a heavy collision with Striker Toby Barton. They held strong under a barrage of Devonport crosses, with O’Connell saving well overhead and even drawing a yellow card from Barnard as he stood under a high ball.

The hosts were pushing against the tide, though, and Eddie Bidwell’s flicked ball over the defence played in Denehey for another poking shot that forced a diving save. The resulting corner from Joel Stone was drilled to the penalty spot, where Barnard rose and headed goalward. His shot looked to be on target towards the back post, but the final touch went to Denehey as he made certain of the goal with a glancing header into the back of the net.

Now behind and with just 15 minutes to find an equaliser, South began to press hard and started to enjoy the bulk of the possession. They struggled to convert that into scoring chances, though, and failed to threaten the Devonport defence. In fact, the Strikers still had the best chances of the final minutes, with Eddie Bidwell forcing another low save and Stone lining up an audacious volley that skewed high and wide.

Things only got tougher for South as the clock ticked past 90 minutes and into stoppage time. A long ball from Devonport’s defensive half forced O’Connell to come off his line and attempt to clear the danger, but he was beaten to the ball by Barnard and clattered into the Strikers forward. Barnard’s shot was cut out short of the goal line but O’Connell was whistled for the foul and shown a red card.

He was replaced in goal by Nathan Reid, and South’s backup gloveman quickly found himself in the spotlight as the Strikers added their second goal. A pass back from his defence forced Reid to clear the ball with his first touch, but it sliced off his boot and straight to Lamb at the top of the box. With time to advance into the area, he hit a shot into the top corner to ice the win for Devonport.

That proved to be the last meaningful play of the game, and the Strikers celebrated their third consecutive win at the final whistle. They will now look ahead to a Lakoseljac Cup semi-final against Taroona, while South will have a week to recover before their next league fixture against Launceston City.