Monday, September 10, 2018

Late free-kick gives Heidelberg win over Devonport

Photo:  Devonport keeper Nathan Pitchford is deceived by Jack Petrie's free-kick [PlessPix]

(NPL Finals Series, Valley Road, Devonport, Saturday, 8 September 2018)

Devonport City 2 (Steven Pace 29 og, Kieran Mulraney 87)
Heidelberg United 3 (Sean Ellis 44, Alexander Schiavo 45, Jack Petrie 90+7)

HT:  1-2   Att:  1,146   Ref:  T Peart

Devonport City:  Pitchford  -  Bidwell, Lazcano, Mulraney, Smith  -  Jesse Dance, Blizzard  -  Stone  -  West, Mann, Holden  (Subs:  Crocker, Jelenovic, Knott, Andrews, Pearce)

Heidelberg United:  Theodoridis-Petropoulos  -  Read, Pace, Byles, Way  -  Zahra, Petrie  -  Ellis, Schiavo, Cartanos  -  Cahill  (Subs:  Wilkins, Hall, Tsalikidis, Pavlidis, Ofli)

Heidelberg United came to Valley Road with a great reputation as holders of the NPL title, but Devonport City, the Tasmanian league and cup double winners, were not overawed and generally gave as good as they got.

Tempers became frayed at times, but Tasmania’s English referee, Tony Peart, showed his experience from The Championship in England and refused to be intimidated.  His decisions were authoritative, his demeanour calm and collected, and it is not surprising that he may be gracing the A-League later this year as an assistant referee.

The Victorian visitors dominated the opening exchanges and Devonport were reliant on the occasional counter-attack through long balls.

But, Heidelberg’s shooting was way off target and they failed to punish the home side, despite having most of the possession.

This proved fateful as Devonport took the lead around the half-hour mark when a low ball driven in from the left by Michael Holden was turned into his own net by a lunging Steven Pace.

This had the home supporters in raptures and Heidelberg knew that they were in for a game.

The game turned dramatically within a couple of minutes of half-time when Heidelberg used their own swift counter-attacks to score twice, through Sean Ellis and Alexander Schiavo.  They managed to breach the central defence of Devonport and beat Nathan Pitchford with low shots from the edge of the box.

The second half saw Devonport more involved, but some of their shooting was way off target.

Pitchford had very little to do as Heidelberg’s attacks lacked bite because of resolute defending by the home side and aggressive midfield play by Beau Blizzard, Jesse Dance and Joel Stone.

Devonport were like a dog with a bone and their pressure was rewarded in the 87th minute when a Stone free-kick was turned against the left-hand post by Heidelberg keeper Christopher Theodoridis-Petropoulos and Kieran Mulraney knocked the ball home from close range to make it 2-2.

Five minutes of stoppage time were signalled by the fourth official and extra-time seemed inevitable.

Six minutes were gone when Heidelberg earned a free-kick wide on the left.  Jack Petrie floated a high ball towards the far post which was completely misjudged by Pitchford and, to his horror, the ball dipped under the bar and in to the net to give Heidelberg a 3-2 win.

“Very unlucky, wasn’t it,” said Devonport City coach, Chris Gallo.

“I think it was the second-last kick of the game, or whatever it was.  It’s an unfortunate result, but I think we’ve held three very good Victorian teams.  I think we’ve held our own really well.

“That’s the whole idea [to represent Tasmania].  We knew that.  We have to represent our State [of Tasmania] and the people and the football community.

“We can’t sit back and defend around the 18-yard box.  We need to be proactive.  It’s in our DNA and it’s who we are.  That’s what we believe in and how we believe our football should be played.”

Gallo said that he has had informal approaches from interstate clubs after Devonport’s highly successful season, including in the FFA Cup.

“I’ll speak to the club again,” he said.  “I’m tremendously happy here.  My family is happy here.

“There has been interest.  I can’t deny it.  By the same token , my group of players that I have here,  I’d run through brick walls for them, and I think they’d do the same for me.  It’s a great place to be a part of and we’ve built a huge culture here that’s got high standards and I think, if we continue nights like this in the future, it’ll be all worthwhile.

“We nullified their attack really well.  The fact is in football that no team can handle pressure or be under pressure [the entire game], but you’ve got to put them under there and be brave to do that and I thought we did really well in pressing them.

“We changed our press in the second half and had to set up little traps up in wide areas which allowed us to capitalise on that.  But, unfortunately, that took a toll on Kynan [West] and Holden and that probably decreased our attack a little bit.

“It’s a game we can learn from and improve from and there’s a lot of young players on the national stage who did really well, and local players, as well, such as Eddie Bidwell and Kynan West.  So, I’m very, very proud of them.  We’ve got a 16-year-old as well, not pulling out and giving his all, so I was very, very proud.”

Former Tasmanian and South Hobart star, Kostas Kanakaris, was injured and unable to play for Heidelberg, although he did make the trip and was present at the game.

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