The Strikers Vault
Rd 17 2018 v Hobart Zebras
Our next entry into the Strikers Vault features the 2018 Round 17 contest against the Hobart Zebras.
A 3-0 win against the Zebras at Valley Road shored up the top spot in the league prior to a reasonably strenuous run home for the Strikers which would feature two FFA Cup commitments as well as matches against title contending counterparts Launceston City and South Hobart.
A recurring theme of some of the great games to be staged at Valley Road is that they are often carried out under challenging wet weather conditions. This contest was faithful to that theme as a steady patch of rain caused the condition of the pitch to progressively decline throughout the match, testing each team’s ability to adapt to the circumstances as they changed.
The first half shared similar characteristics to that of a well contested arm wrestle as both sides struggled against each other but neither were able to build any meaningful momentum. Very few chances were created and the half finished nil-all.
The second half was a stark contrast to the uneventful nature of the first with both teams producing clear-cut chances in the opening period.
In the 53rd minute the Zebras striker Isky Van Doorne hit the back of the net off a rebound following a save from Nathan Pitchford only to have the play flagged offside by the linesman.
The Strikers breakthrough was delivered in the 64th minute as Kieran Mulraney ducked to head a dipping corner ball toward the bottom corner. A Zebras defender desperately lunged to clear the ball of the line but could only manage to deflect it into the back of the net providing the Strikers with a 1-0 advantage.
In the 72nd minute Nathan Pitchford produced some of his trademark heroics diving to his left to deny a well hit Jakub Sklenář strike from the edge of the box. A save which in the context of the match was crucial, dismissing the opportunity for the Zebras to level the score and tip the momentum back in their favour.
The Strikers second goal arrived in the 75th minute. Using the wet conditions to his advantage, a well timed slide tackle from Brayden Mann prevented the Zebras defence from clearing their lines, while on the ground Mann played the ball to Gediminas Kruša, who then laid it off to Joel Stone at the top of the box. Stone demonstrated some clean footwork to maneuver himself into a position where he had a clear strike at goal and beat the keeper to his left, doubling the Strikers lead.
The final goal of the match was added by Stone in the 92nd minute. A pass from Michael Holden reached Stone at the top of the box who had ample time to set himself and launch a shot. Shaping up toward the bottom left, a deflection saw it cross the goal and make contact with the back of the net through the bottom right, securing the 3-0 win. Stone and his Strikers teammates wheeled off toward the Gordon Rimmer Stand in celebration, sliding on the muddy pitch in front of the home fans.
Stay tuned next week as we go into the Strikers Vault again next Wednesday!