Zebras Hold Off Warriors To Keep Slim Title Hopes Alive
The Hobart JEEP Zebras kept their slim title hopes alive with a narrow 3-2 over their traditional rivals the Olympia Warriors. Having led 3-0, the Zebras seemingly switched off and the Warriors were unlucky not have taken something from the game after staging a strong fightback to dominate the second half.
The Zebras got the jump on them and took the lead just 12 minutes in as Adam Mckeown smashed a ball into the back of the net, beating Stalker at his near post having been set up by Huigsloot.
The towering front man was a constant menace and dominated in the air throughout the first half, winning everything that came his way and combining superbly with Mckeown. Hugh Undy meanwhile was dominating in the middle, creating chances and beating defenders.
On 20 minutes they doubled their advantage though it was with an element of fortune as Hugh Undy drove a shot from outside the box that smashed into Vandermey and cruelly deflected in the complete other direction and past a wrong footed Stalker.
Tyler Harrison then made it 3-0 with a thumping header after the Warriors failed to clear a corner and at that stage a rout looked on the cards, if not for shot stops on the line from Vandermey and Roberts it would have been 4-0 inside of half an hour.
The Warriors responded on the half hour mark, with captain Jake Vandermey smashing a powerful volley that quite literally burst through the back of the net, having been set up by some nice play from Wadawu. It would prove a turning point in the game as the Zebras struggled from that point on.
The Warriors had the better of the final 15 minutes of the half but couldn’t find another goal, with Little almost getting on the end of a Wadawu cross right before the break as it flashed across the top of the six yard box.
The Zebras came flying out of the blocks in the second half and looked to kill the game off with an early goal but Stalker denied Walsh’s low drive and moment’s later it was game on as the Warriors scored again.
Thomas Bellini made it 3-2, his deft redirection of the ball that Thomas Little had headed goalwards from a Gavin Hoy corner was enough to to beat Wright and suddenly the Warriors were looking every chance.
Shae Hickey was outstanding in midfield, bossing the contest and helping his side dominate the middle of the park, he was ably supported by Ortmann and the dangerous Gavin Hoy, who was suddenly in everything, taking on defenders and looking his side’s most likely avenue to a leveler.
It wouldn’t come however, as the Zebras defended stoutly under increasing pressure from the Warriors. Tyler Harrison had one particular moment of brilliance when he produced a lunging block to deny Bellini from close range but in truth despite the pressure they were applying, Graham Wright didn’t have a tough save to make in the final 30 minutes. The closest they came was through a Hoy free kick that went just past the post, but it was a nervy final 15 minutes the Zebras were forced to endure as the ball continued to be played into their box.
The final whistle brought relief for the Zebras and moved them back into second place, five points adrift of the Strikers, who would need only a point from their final 2 games barring a 16 goal turn around to claim the 2016 title.