Surprise! Strikers’ Tactics Stun South Hobart As McLean Turns On The Style

Sep 17, 2017 by

A changed game plan proved the catalyst for the Brisbane Strikers to steal a march on South Hobart FC and laid the platform for a convincing 4-2 win in the Elimination Final of the PlayStation ® 4 NPL Finals series in Hobart today.

A stellar performance by Strikers’ dual Players’ Player of the Year Jake McLean didn’t hurt either. The midfielder scored two of his team’s goals and laid on the other as Strikers turned on a display of attacking football that had them 3-0 ahead before the home side launched an comeback attempt.

Two headed goals from corner kicks by midfielder Jack Turner brought South Hobart back into the contest before a well-crafted Strikers goal in stoppage time that began with Hiroki Omori in his own six-yard box and ended with a cool finish by McLean settled the visitors’ nerves and took them into the semi-finals next weekend.

The real damage for the away team was done inside the opening ten minutes. The opening goal was scored when McLean turned adroitly away from a midfield opponent and laid on a defence-splitting pass for Ryan Palmer to slot his finish expertly into the bottom corner of Souths’ goal in the eighth minute.

Only a minute later McLean was at it again, slipping a pass out wide to forward Jeremy Stewart before accepting Stewart’s return pass to flick the ball past Souths’ goalkeeper Kieran Brown from close range (pictured) to put Strikers 2-0 up.

Despite a glut of possession over the remainder of the first half Strikers were unable to extend their lead before the interval as the home side adjusted defensively, got men behind the ball and occasionally threatened on the breakout.

But when Stewart was brought down inside Souths’ penalty area on the hour he got up to comfortably convert from the penalty spot to put Strikers 3-0 ahead and a home semi-final seemed a distinct possibility.

To achieve that objective Strikers needed a four-goal winning margin to outdo Edgeworth Eagles’ 4-1 win away to Canberra Olympic on Saturday.

But South Hobart were not in the mood to lie down and when the strapping Turner scored with a stooping header off Adam Gorrie’s corner kick in the seventy-first minute it was the signal for resurgence from the home team.

The same combination proved deadly again in the seventy-ninth minute as Turner – with a leaping header this time – brought the scoreline back to 3-2. All thoughts of a home semi-final for a tiring Strikers team then took a back seat to stemming the red tide, which did its best to sweep into the visitors’ penalty area but was successfully absorbed by a Strikers defence screened by skipper Michael Angus and Ethan Docherty, who provided good cover for centre backs Greig Henslee and Jake Marshall.

The red tide eventually ebbed as substitute Strikers forward Luke Marsh laid on a pass for the unmarked McLean to stroke home Strikers’ fourth goal in the first minute of stoppage time.

Strikers technical director David Large said after that his team’s changed set-up confused South Hobart and paid early dividends as Strikers cut them up through the middle of the pitch rather than working the ball to the flanks.
“I thought in the first half we were as good as we’ve been all year,” said Large.

“We worked to a plan and the boys actioned that plan and we were really, really happy.

“Our intention was to go out fairly early and try and put them under pressure. We knew that they didn’t know the system that we were going to play – they said they did, but they’d never seen us play it. We tweaked our system by bringing the two ‘sixes’ in, which changed what we do in terms of how we get forward.

“So we planned on taking advantage of that and, as it turned out, it worked and it paid off.”

Large said Strikers were fully aware of the scoreline they needed to overhaul Edgeworth Eagles under the rules of the PlayStation 4 NPL Finals Series, and had intended pushing on for a four-goal winning margin. But he said the team’s inability to capitalise further on its first-half superiority and the rigours of the travel required to get to Hobart had taken their toll in the second half.

“We went into the game with a couple of slight injuries – Greig Henslee being one of them – and our intention was to try and get the third goal,” Large said. “And if we’d got the third goal we thought it was a reasonable enough chance to get him off and try and rest him for next week. And we felt really comfortable at that point.

“But it (the third goal) coincided with when we started fading a little bit. We lost a little bit of control in the middle of the park and showed a few signs of weariness and they got back into the game with what I thought was a very sloppy goal from us – not from them, because the header was a good one.

“I thought we were a bit sloppy on our marking, but the second one was just a fantastic header and it was just one of those goals. And it gave them momentum.

“But in fairness I give credit to the boys because they regrouped and recovered and we kept pushing and we got that fourth goal which made it comfortable.

“We were aware (of how the finals points system was playing out). We knew that if we’d have got one more goal we’d have had a home tie, but if I’m being fair to the boys they struggled a little bit with the travel.

“Both legs of the flight were delayed so it took us six hours to get here and it took a little bit out of us and when we lost that momentum they (South Hobart) got it back. But I thought that other than fifteen minutes where we had to grind out a response and to ride that period, once we’d done that we came back well.”

Weary legs notwithstanding, Strikers played a style and technically adept quality of football that South Hobart coach Ken Morton said afterwards his team rarely encountered. Owen Baker’s team can consider themselves to have delivered on McLean’s pre-game comments that they should try to do Queensland football, and their club’s own footballing sensibilities, proud in the finals series.

For all but seventy-five minutes of ninety-five that brand of football was rather too much for the home side. But South Hobart proved themselves resilient and courageous and those other twenty minutes almost turned the contest on its head while it denied Strikers a home semi-final against the Eagles.

Although McLean was the star turn for Strikers going forward, he was by no means alone in turning in a strong performance in what was a very solid team effort. Midfield colleagues Michael Angus, Michael Lee and Ryan Palmer helped control the game for the away team, while fullbacks Sam Knight and Hiroki Omori were outstanding in their defensive duties when Souths’ wide men Adam Gorrie and Alex Walter bombed forward.

South Hobart FC 2 (Turner 71, 79) v Brisbane Strikers FC 4 [Palmer 8, McLean 9, 90+1, Stewart (pen) 61].

South Hobart FC: Kieran Brown (gk), Adam Gorrie, Liam Quaile, Kobe Kemp, Nicholas Morton, Darcy Hall, Alex Walter, Benjamin Hamlett, Jack Turner, Daniel Brown (c), Oscar Thomas. Subs: Hug Ludford, Connor Kass, Alexander Leszczynksi, Loic Feral, Mark Moncur (rgk). Coach: Ken Morton.

Brisbane Strikers: Mitchell Thorn (gk), Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Sam Knight, Ethan Docherty, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Jeremy Stewart, Hiroki Omori, Ryan Palmer. Subs: Braedon Steele, Lachlan Weier, Luke Marsh, Fraser Eller, Tomislav Mesaric (rgk). Coach: Owen Baker

Photo: Football Federation Tasmania

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