Monday, June 17, 2019

Devonport show they are made of the right stuff and can win the NPL title

Photo:  Devonport's Connor Parke clears ahead of Knights' Alex Bellini [PlessPix]

(NPL Tasmania, KGV Park, Saturday, 15 June 2019)

Glenorchy Knights 2 (C Brown 22, 27)
Devonport City 5 (M Fitzgerald 23, J Stone 44, M Barnard 45, 74, E Bidwell 77)

HT:  2-3   Att:  120   Ref:  B Kopra

Glenorchy Knights:  Nester  -  Toghill, Hardwick, Harrison, James  -  Backhouse, Gutierrez-Chavez, Young  -  D Brown, Bellini, C Brown  (Subs:  Hart, Heggie, Naden, Nowicki, Stuart)

Devonport City:  Pitchford  -  Parke, Mulraney, Reynolds, Smith  -  Stone, Hingston, Giampaoli, Bidwell  -  Barnard, Fitzgerald  (Subs:  Barton, Jack Dance, West)

Photo:  Devonport's Miles Barnard heads against the crossbar [PlessPix]

Devonport City survived a couple of early scares and went on to show why they are on top of the NPL Tasmania standings and 5 points clear of the field.

It was probably the best performance by the North-West Coast side this season and southern fans can be pleased that they can watch league-leaders Devonport in action as they seem to be down here every weekend.  What Devonport’s home fans must think is probably unprintable as they rarely see their boys on home turf.

Devonport displayed the qualities a side needs if they are going to win the league.

They showed resilience and an ability to come back from being down (twice).  They showed how to vary the tempo of a game to unsettle an opponent.  They showed how to take set-pieces that represented a clear and present danger.  And, they showed that they could score when presented with chances.

Devonport have a run of home matches to see out the season and on this display, they’ll be hard to toss.

Knights surprisingly started with Rowan Heggie, Nick Naden and Mathew Nowicki on the bench, but they did have ‘he of the electric pace’, Callum Brown, in the starting line-up.  How they could have used him earlier in the season.

Photo:  Knights' speedster Callum Brown teases Devonport's Connor Parke as Raphael Reynolds awaits the outcome [PlessPix]

Callum Brown was burning the turf down the flanks and Devonport were definitely on the back foot.  It was like those road-runner cartoons.  They could see him but they couldn’t catch him.

Photo:  Knights' Callum Brown gets past Devonport's Connor Parke [PlessPix]

It was Devonport, however, who came closest to scoring in the opening skirmishes.  Eddie Bidwell was desperately unlucky after just 2 minutes when he swerved a shot from the right slightly in the wrong arc and the ball glanced gently off the far left-hand post and bounced harmlessly wide.

Knights keeper, Dmitri Nester, did very well in the 10th minute to block a stinging shot from Max Fitzgerald.

Photo:  Knights' Diego Gutierrez-Chavez hooks the ball away from Devonport's Raphael Reynolds [PlessPix]

It was in the 22nd minute that Callum Brown strutted his stuff.  He left Bidwell for dead and cut inside before bending a splendid shot around keeper Nathan Pitchford and inside the far right-and post to put Knights ahead.

Devonport may have had the wind knocked out of their sails for a few seconds, but they struck back immediately.  Bidwell atoned for his complicity in conceding the opening goal by racing down the right and showing a clean pair of heels to Sam James before delivering a low cross into the goalmouth for Max Fitzgerald to fire home the equaliser in the 23rd minute.

Four minutes later, the ‘road-runner’ again did his party trick.  He raced wide to the left in pursuit of a diagonal ball that put Connor Parke completely out of the game and then cut inside to score and make it 2-1 to the home side.

Devonport showed no sign of being rattled and stuck to their task.  Joel Stone, however, was showing a frustrating tendency to hold on to the ball instead of passing and also of running into dead-ends as he tried to display his ball skills.  He would beat one or two opponents, only to be dispossessed in the end.

Photo:  Devonport's Joel Stone eludes Knights' Diego Gutierrez-Chavez and Ryan Backhouse [PlessPix]

And then, in the 44th minute, he showed what he is really good at:  free-kicks.  He drove an unstoppable free-kick from outside the box into the top left-hand corner of the net.  Nester was airborne, but had Buckley’s chance of reaching it.  It was 2-2 and Devonport had again shown their ability to overcome adversity.

They weren’t finished yet, though.  They showed they have the makings of a title-winning side when, a minute later, they struck again.  It was like a boxer going down twice for the count and getting up again and then turning the tables by flooring the opponent at a critical moment of the contest.  Miles Barnard was put through on the left of the box and he superbly lifted the ball over the advancing Nester and inside the far right-hand post to give his side a 3-2 lead at the interval.

Devonport came out for the second half with all guns blazing.  Stone was more effective as he passed the ball more often and his free-kicks from the flanks and corners were inviting for his team-mates and difficult for the defenders to deal with.

Photo:  Devonport's Raphael Reynolds knocks the ball away from Knights' Alex Bellini [PlessPix]

In the 59th minute, Barnard sent a header onto the top of the crossbar, while in the 68th minute, Barnard’s shot was mishandled by Nester and it took a goal-line headed clearance by the impressively nonchalant skipper, Tyler Harrison, to save the Knights’ bacon.

In the 74th minute, Stone again delivered a marvellous free-kick into the box from the right and Kieran Mulraney headed against the right-hand upright.  The ball rebounded perfectly to Barnard, who gleefully smashed it into the net to make it 4-2 for the visitors.

Two minutes later, it was again a Stone free-kick that posed danger.  Todd Hingston got to it, but his header struck a post.

In the 77th minute, Bidwell showed pace and determination as he raced down the right and cut inside to get past several defenders before slotting the ball home to make it a 5-2 victory.

Photo:  Knights' Alex Bellini challenges Devonport's Raphael Reynolds for a header [PlessPix]

Both sides used their substitutes during the second half, but the introduction by Knights of Jake Stuart, Nick Naden and Mathew Nowicki barely caused a ripple, while Devonport’s insertion of Toby Barton, Jack Dance and Kynan West merely meant steady as she goes.

Devonport’s former coach, Chris Gallo, was in the stands.  He is back from Queensland and is now employed by Football Tasmania as a youth development officer on the North-West Coast.  I wonder what he thought of it all?

Photo:  Former Devonport coach Chris Gallo watching the game from the grandstand [PlessPix]

1 comment:

Rex said...

You're being very generous with your crowd estimation, Walter.

I'd say there were 80 at best.

Woeful crowd for a game was a potential banana skin for the Port.