Zebras Stampede Back Into Top Spot

IC- Solstice Digital

The Hobart JEEP Zebras dismantled an undermanned Olympia Warriors FC 4-0 this afternoon at Warrior Park to go back to the top of the PS4 National Premier Leagues Tasmania table. In a match that also doubled as the battle for Estia Cup, the Zebras were simply too strong from the first whistle to the last. The Zebras had winners all over the park, but particular standouts were Mattias Toghill, Dwayne Walsh, Henry Moody and Luke Huigsloot. For the Warriors, Zachary Drake and Spiros Paradisis were their best, with Paradisis returning to form with a stellar solo display that kept the scoreline respectable.

The Zebras should have had a goal inside the first minute as Adam McKeown found himself played through one on one with Paradisis, his shot was blocked by the Olympia custodian before it fell to Walsh who lashed a shot straight at Paradisis. This time he fumbled it briefly and Huigsloot was on hand to hit another shot which Paradisis blocked with his legs. It was a frenetic opening and the Warriors were lucky to escape still level pegging with the superior Zebras.

In the 18th minute the Zebras began turning the screws on the Warriors and put them under immense pressure. They only had Paradisis to thank for the 0-0 scoreline as he dived away to his left to prevent a powerful close range shot from Huigsloot nestling into the back of the net. From the resulting corner, it was James Sherman that rose highest and powered a header towards the top left window, but, unbelievably, Paradisis was again there to deny the header.

In the 19th minute, Sam Conway burst down the left flank and pushed into the 18 yard box where Drake miscalculated his challenge and appeared to shove Conway in the back. Referee Kim Barker had no issue in pointing to the spot after adjudging Conway had been fouled. Up stepped Jayden Hey and he dispatched the penalty into the bottom left with no problems to give the Zebras a well deserved lead.

To their credit, Olympia worked their way back into the contest in the final twenty minutes of the first half. New signing from the second tier in Victoria, Zios Galanopoulos got into the game and the big man played a part in some excellent exchanges with Warren Wadawu down the right flank for Olympia. It was their only avenue going forward as the opposite flank was having a torrid time getting anything past Toghill, who completely destroyed Olympia defensively and offensively all game.

The score remained 1-0 at half time and Coach Chris Hey must have given his Zebra's a rocket, or at least reiterated some key points as they came out firing in a completely one sided second half.

In the 48th minute a fortunate set of circumstances saw Sherman score. Conway had again burst down the left hand flank and crossed a ball that Paradisis was worried about making its way to Huigsloot. The gloveman clawed at the ball and it made its way to Walsh at the back stick. His effort splayed horribly and was going out for a goal kick until it was met at the back post by Sherman who slammed home from close range.

The Zebras continued to dominate the second half and in the 74th minute their dominance was again rewarded. Walsh went on a barnstorming run, sweeping past the diminutive Gavin Hoy before brushing aside Drake and avoiding a sliding Shae Hickey. He then slammed a ball across the face of goals that Huigsloot poked home from all of two yards out to make it 3-0.

In the 78th minute, it was the fourth and final goal of the game. A long Hey throw found Huigsloot who headed onto the crossbar, the ball then fell towards the back post where substitute Henry Fagg leapt over the top of Hickey to head into the top left.

It was a completely dominant performance, especially in the second half by the Zebras. They are strong all over the park and managed to keep Olympia to just the 8 shots off target all game. Moody and Tyler Harrison were completely dominant in central defence whilst Toghill and Conway controlled the flanks. They are a dangerous side and with an absolutely rock solid defence, backed up by the ever reliable Graham Wright, the Zebras will be hard to break down for any side this year.

Hobart JEEP Zebras player James Sherman said his teammates were pleased with the win, "of course, it's important for us to get three points and we did it."

"Look, we were pretty good. I thought the work rate was super today. We kept a good side to limited chances."

"The back four, they've been fantastic."

"I wouldn't have thought so (that the Zebras are title favourites), I still would have thought that was South Hobart."

Olympia Warriors FC Coach Glenn McNeill was happy with the performance of his undermanned squad, "disappointing result, but I think the team we had out there gave it all and were beaten by a better team on the day."

"It's a bit of a makeshift team (referring to the second half fade-out) and to play at that level for a full 90 minutes is a big ask."

"He (Galanopoulos) was quite good, he combined quite well... in the first half he looked good."

So it's back to the drawing board for Olympia with a huge Lakoseljac semi final this weekend against South Hobart. They have a lot of work to do based on this showing and will need all of their best players fit and firing ready for that match if they are to have any chance.

The Zebras get a well earned rest now having been bundled out of the Lakoseljac Cup last month and they can turn their focus to South Hobart for their next league clash.


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