The Strikers Vault
Rd 21 2019 v Olympia Warriors FC
For our next entry into the Strikers Vault, we revisit the 2019 round 21 top of the table clash against the Olympia Warriors.
A crucial fixture in the context of the title race, the 4-1 win for the 1st placed Strikers against the 2nd placed Warriors put a serious dent in Olympia’s title aspirations and created an important buffer between Devonport and the rest of the league in the twilight of the 2019 season.
From the kick-off, it quickly became very clear that all the challenges of a late-season, heavily weather-affected Valley Road surface was on the table. A crisp, passing style of play would be tough to execute for both teams.
Creating individual moments of brilliance and limiting individual moments of error would prove to be the key factors in determining the result of the contest.
The Strikers faithful would not have to wait long for their side to show that bit of brilliance.
In the 6th minute, Joel Stone delivered a textbook corner ball to the near post which was met with a perfectly timed run from Miles Barnard, his header rocketed into the back of the net opening the Strikers account for the day and marking ‘The Fox’s’ 20th goal for the season.
Brilliance was again on display in the 9th minute when keeper Nathan Pitchford added to his already extensive 2019 highlights package pulling off a spectacular diving save to deny a 25-yard strike from Olympia’s Jordan Scott.
Neither side enjoyed a majority of the possession for the rest of the opening period, and both struggled against the conditions to execute in the final third.
Halfway through the first half, an arguably unsportsmanlike challenge from Warriors striker Jack Ryan against Kieran Mulraney caused an altercation between the two. After a brief stoppage in play, referee Brenton Kopra, resolved the incident by issuing both players a yellow card.
The Strikers controlled the majority of the play for the rest of the half, heaping the pressure on the Olympia defence. However, a combination of the Warriors adopting a deeper line and the challenges presented by the conditions of the pitch the Strikers couldn’t add to their 1-0 advantage.
On the cusp of half-time Raphael Renoylds injured his wrist while attempting a slide tackle, forcing Strikers coach Rick Coghlan to make a substitution at the break and introduce Toby Barton.
The second half kicked-off as the first half ended with the Strikers dominating the majority of the possession.
In the 55th minute, that period of dominance reflected on the scoresheet from another link-up between Stone and Barnard. An attempted Olympia clearance near the halfway line was brought down superbly by Stone, who then pivoted to face the goal, launched a long ball forward and found the head of Barnard who glanced it into the bottom left corner, putting the Strikers 2-0 up.
Olympia replied quickly in the 59th minute as a rare lapse from the Strikers back four saw them caught out of shape, allowing Jack Ryan to play John Mulungula through to a one on one who struck it hard toward the near post beating Pitchford, making the score 2-1.
The goal sparked a noticeable lift in tempo from the Warriors and they began to press the Strikers more intensely preventing them from dictating terms as they had for the majority of the match.
In the 70th minute, an interception from Dom Smith high up the pitch saw him surge into the vacant space on the left-wing. He then passed inside to Max Fitzgerald who dribbled to the byline and attempted a cross only to have it blocked by the Olympia defence. The ball spilt back into play where Smith contested and won the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box, took a touch toward the centre of the pitch and crossed toward the back post. The cross was met on the volley by Eddie Bidwell who made no mistake placing the ball into the back of the net, making it 3-1 to the Strikers.
The final period of the match saw the Warriors maintain a high tempo despite the 3-1 deficit in a desperate bid to preserve their chances at a second title. The Strikers were more than up to the task remaining composed in the testing circumstances, denying any clear-cut chances in defence and remaining calm on the ball when in possession.
The icing was applied to the cake in the 90th minute. A set-piece delivered by Smith near the halfway line fell to ground near the edge of the 6-yard box and was scrambled into the goal by Barnard to complete his hat-trick and finish the game 4-1 to the Strikers!
Stay tuned next week as we go into the Strikers Vault again!