South and Port Share the Spoils to Open Up the Title Race
Mark Wakefield. IC-South Hobart FC
South Hobart and the Devonport Strikers split the points today in an entertaining clash between two teams with widely different styles of play. At the end of the game, the score was 1-1 and the Zebras rubbed their hands together with glee as they now have their title aspirations back in their own hands, with a chance to cut the gap to 2 points with a win over the Lions on Sunday.
In a game that was largely controlled by South Hobart, Devonport still maintained their record of having not conceded a goal to a South Hobart player this season, with South’s goal coming through Daniel Syson smashing one into his own net.
South started like a house on fire and really took the game up to the league leaders and should have been ahead by one or two goals after 12 minutes. Niko Giantsopolous proved to be a thorn in the side of South all day, pulling off numerous fine saves in amongst South missing some gilt-edged chances and he thrice denied them in the opening 25 minutes with quality stops.
In the 26th minute, South Hobart took a deserved lead. Darcy Hall ran onto a loose ball down the right wing, and burst past Smith, on a scintillating run before playing a low hard cross towards the penalty spot. Daniel Syson had tracked back hard but miscued his clearance and smashed it past Giantsopolous and into his own net to make it 1-0 for South Hobart.
IC-South Hobart FC
Almost immediately after they conceded, Devonport worked a corner and Miles Barnard fired a warning shot of a header against the right hand post that rebounded towards the edge of the 6 yard box where another Devonport player headed over the top.
The score remained 1-0 at the break and South Hobart would have been ecstatic with their efforts, playing into a fairly strong breeze. They had worked hard and the only thing that stopped them from a further lead was some inspired keeping by Giantsopolous.
The Strikers have made a habit of scoring just after half time this season and in the 50th minute, they did just that and scored from a corner. The corner was curled right into the danger zone and young Kieran Brown, who otherwise had a great game, just wasn’t big enough or strong enough to outdo the big bodies of Devonport. The ball was headed back towards the goal by Smith before deflecting up in the air off Feral, Brown lunged at it with a hand and Hess and Barnard jumped for it, who actually got the final touch is anyone’s guess but Barnard certainly claimed it, wheeling off in celebration, the score now 1-1.
South had a chance to reclaim the lead in the 53rd minute as Jack Turner worked hard to make his way inside the attacking 18 yard box before cutting a beautiful ball across to Hess. Hess, who was unmarked, lashed a side footed effort against the right hand post when he really should have scored.
South had a couple more chances as the half wore on through Hall and then Schmidt but neither could break the deadlock.
South had one more chance in the fourth minute of added time when Connor Schmidt’s low shot across the 6 yard box was met by Oscar Thomas who fashioned a side footed back heel on target, but fortunately for Devonport, Giantsopolous was at the right place at the right time and was able to save the surprise effort with minimal fuss.
South probably deserved the three points on the balance of play, for if this were a boxing match they would have won a unanimous decision 120-108. Their young brigade of Schmidt, Thomas and Liam Quaile were superb on the day, whilst they were ably supported by a balanced team performance. The future is bright for South Hobart in this regard but this result put an end to any title aspirations.
The title race is now wide open with the Zebras able to close within two points should they do enough to beat the Lions tomorrow. Their title hopes will be in the Zebras hands when they meet the Strikers in the next few weeks at the Portress. But they have won that fixture earlier in the season and as it stands, they are the only team that have beaten the Strikers this season.
South Hobart coach Ken Morton was reflective in his press conference, “too many missed chances to win the game. I thought we were the better team for 90 minutes and deserved to win…”
“It was a good team effort today, everyone stepped up and fought really hard for each other.”
“You look at their keeper and he was outstanding.”
“You win games by scoring goals.”
“We have to take our chances and finish teams off.”
Devonport coach Peter Saville was unsure what to think after the game, when asked if he was happy with a point from the contest… “I’m not really sure to be honest.”
“Yes (I feel unsatisfied with the result)”.
“I’m not sure (that we deserved 1 or 3 points).”