The Strikers Vault
FFA Cup 2018 – Round of 32 v Northcote City FC
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The Devonport Strikers created history, becoming the first Tasmanian side to win a road FFA Cup tie as they downed Northcote City FC 3-1 on Tuesday night. A Miles Barnard brace inside the opening 15 minutes set the Strikers on the way, before a 78th minute Joel Stone strike sealed the famous victory despite a late consolation goal for the Victorians.
The first clear chance of the game fell to Northcote and it was one they should have taken. Noah Milhalidis was given far too much room on the left wing and used that time to play a perfect ball over the top of the Strikers defence to pick out the unmarked William Hoskins. But the Northcote striker headed straight at Pitchford when either side of him surely would have seen him open the scoring. At the other end, Miles Barnard would have no such problems.
In the 12th minute, Eddie Bidwell did superbly well to charge down a clearance, follow up his effort and play an inch perfect through ball for the ‘Fox in the Box’ to run onto. Barnard rounded the keeper and slotted home to open the scoring, picking up a Slice of Cheese for the lift of the shirt as he wheeled away in celebration.
He had more to celebrate just two minutes later when he bagged his second in quick succession. Winning the ball back high up the field through a relentless press that caused Northcote issues all game, the ball was worked to Brayden Mann at the top of the box who drew three defenders to him. That left Barnard free and when Mann picked him out with the pass, he finessed home a tidy finish on the left foot to send the travelling fans into delirium.
With their confidence sky high, the Strikers looked to find a third and all but end the game before the half. Michael Holden, who was outstanding down the left flank, was absolutely torching the opposition and he skipped past two defenders before forcing a sharp save out of Petrovski. Mann then found the side netting as the Strikers took the game to their opponents and really forced the issue. This was not an underdog side sitting back and holding onto a lead, it was a confident team believing they were the stronger side and looking to finish off their wounded prey.
Northcote were already facing a tough enough task to get back into the game, but that task was made all the harder when Adrian Mancini was sent off for two yellow cards. The bookings came in the space of 30 seconds, the second for his reaction to what he felt was an undeserved first booking. It was an utterly brainless moment, and his ill discipline left the Victorians needing a miracle in the second half.
For 15 minutes coming out of the sheds, they looked capable of producing one, enjoying a good spell in their final third and forcing some backs to the walls defending for the Strikers. This was more the quality of opposition the Strikers were expecting and a reminder the job was not yet done!
Nathan Pitchford was reliable when called upon though, making some good saves including an aesthetically stunning diving save from a free kick. Importantly he was not giving up any rebounds, with the Northcote attackers looking to follow up their shots from range, but finding no scraps left on the doorstep to feast on.
Gedi Krusa, who was a standout in midfield, launching a series of raking passes that split the Northcote defence apart came close to finding a third, and Barnard almost chested in his hat-trick, but the third goal was eluding them. The game was notably opening up as the 10 men of Northcote flung players on in attack, leaving plenty of space in behind.
That space was then exploited by Brayden Mann, who chipped a deft pass over the top for Joel Stone to run onto. Having timed his run to absolute perfection, he cooly slotted home the third goal that sealed the win and continued his impressive run of goalscoring form.
Northcote were not about to go gently into the night though, with substitute Yaya Khalif coming off the bench to make his debut to devastating effect. Having flashed past the defence a couple of times, he ran onto a ball over the top and headed home to pull it back to 3-1 with 5 minutes left in regulation.
The goal seemed to send a bit of a wobble through the Strikers, who for the first time all game looked shaky at the back and it took some good keeping from Pitchford to keep the game at 3-1 and avoid a nervy ending.
There would be no miracle for Northcote though, the final whistle ringing out around the David Barro Stadium to confirm the Strikers historic victory.
It sees the Strikers through to the Round of 16 for the second time in 3 years, and is the first time a Tasmanian side has won a road FFA Cup clash. Just as was the case in 2016, a Victorian powerhouse awaits them in the Round of 16, with the Strikers drawn away to Avondale FC in the next round.
Coach Chris Gallo was delighted with his side and the grin on his face post game told the whole story.
“I’m enormously proud, to win over here on Victorian turf is enormous. It’s a massive achievement for our club, our community, our state, it just shows the leaps and bounds we’ve made in quick time in Football in Tasmania.
“I’m ecstatic for the players they deserve it so much and have worked so hard from pre-season to now,”
Strikers President Rod Andrews was likewise beaming and he spoke of his pride in the group for their performance.
“The immediate feeling is just absolute pride, a lot of different things motivate people to do this stuff, we just love seeing this group of blokes get what they deserve and they deserve ever bit of this, they were awesome tonight.”
He paid credit to the travelling supporters and the club culture that he believes has fostered such strong support.
“How good are they? How amazing was that to look across at that and see all those people there. Another 140 were at Valley Road too, it was going off down there. The support is everywhere, and it doesn’t just happen, you don’t just wake up one day and suddenly everyone loves your club and supports you. We’ve worked really hard on this over the last 6-7 years and it’s coming together nicely for us, its a great culture.”
Report by Andrew Cooling – Slice of Cheese