The Adelaide Hills Hawks travelled down to Jack Smith Park on Saturday 8th May to face the highly fancied title contenders, West Torrens Birkalla, in what would be another highly entertaining game.
Hawks Coach, Gaz Von Duve was forced to change the Starting 11 due to illness and injury within the team. The defence remained the same with Conor Hudson in Goal, and in front of him was Nick Walker and Owen Smith as the two Fullbacks, with the middle pairing of Captain Nathan Elliott and Jared Daly completing the back line.
Liam Mullan returned to the midfield, coming into the starting line up for young Mitchell Keegan, missing due to Illness, with Danny Pauli and Scott Harrison, who was playing against his old club after recently signing with Hawks.
The Attack again was led by the hard-working Ollie Grant and he was ably supported by Jake Loechel on the right and Adam Tredrea on the left.
It was Birkalla who looked the more dangerous in the opening 5 Minutes, and Hawks were nearly made to pay when an erratic wayward pass was headed back into the Hawks 18 yard box, falling to the Birkalla Striker who hit his shot first time. The powerful shot would have been a certain goal if not for Hudson, who brilliantly parried it out for a corner
Hawks started to settle and in the following 10 minutes looked threatening with some beautiful interplay combinations by the midfield and the Forwards, which nearly resulted in goals. Another opportunity came when hard working strong man Grant robbed the opposing midfielder of the ball in the middle of the park and quickly laid it off to Mullan. Mullan neatly placed the ball between his opponents legs before threading a nice through ball to the on rushing Tredrea. Tredrea had space to hit the shot first time but hesitated, allowing the retreating defender to block the shot which resulted in a corner for Hawks.
The game started to flow with both teams making numerous forays into each others 18 yard box and chances falling to both teams. Hawks had another lucky escape when Birkalla’s, Striker was put through one on one with the ‘keeper, but luckily Daly was there to stop the run and in doing so was handed a Yellow Card for his troubles. Tragedy struck in the 39th minute when a dangerous, floated long ball from deep inside Hawks half was not cleared when Hudson called for the ball, thinking he’d make the save. Unfortunately the on rushing Hudson did not make the distance, and with Daly already pulling out of the Header to allow Hudson a clear path, the Striker charged in between Daly and Hudson, glancing the ball into the back of the net.
Hawks got straight back into the attack, creating a good chance to equalise when Grant turned his man inside the 18 yard box before hitting his shot towards goal, but the ‘keeper saved it, palming it away for another corner. The score remained at 1 – 0 to Birkalla going into the half time break.
The free flowing football continued in the second half, with Hudson called on to pull off a shot stopper again early in the half. Shortly after a cross from Smith led to an Elliott header which came close to finding the net. In the 61st minute, from a Birkalla throw in close to the corner, the ball was played to an attacker on the edge of the 18 box who turned and curled the ball into the top left corner, giving Hudson no chance of saving the ball. Birkalla now 2 – 0 up. Two minutes later Hawks were making a charge in Birkalla’s half when they lost control of the ball, Birkalla breaking quickly to counter attack and Hawks conceding a third goal.
Coach Von Duve made two quick substitutions bringing on Callum Elms and Sam Thomas in the 70th and 71st minute, both players returning from recent injuries. Elms had an immediate impact, breaking away from the Birkalla defenders to have a shot at goal which flashed just wide of the post. Von Duve made his third substitution in the 79th minute when Walker succumbed to an injury, Callum Hutchins coming on to bolster the midfield with Thomas moving to the wing. From a Hudson goal kick, Grant won a header down field, flicking it on for Elms who in turn flicked it forward to Tredrea who was put through one on one, blasting it towards goal and forcing the ‘keeper into a save. From the ensuing corner, Elms crossed the ball to the back post, Elliott heading the ball towards what looked like a sure goal, only to be denied by the inside of the post, the ball bouncing safely into the hands of the ‘keeper.
Hawks continued to fight on, pressuring and challenging in Birkalla’s half, the ball skimming across and over the goal, or directly to the ‘keeper. There was time for one more spectacular save from Hudson in a one on one challenge, Hudson’s quick reaction sending the ball over the cross bar at point blank range to deny Birkalla a fourth goal, the whistle sounding shortly after, a 3 – 0 win to Birkalla.
Best players for Hawks were Elliott, Daly, Grant and Harrison.
With a Cup round being played next weekend, Hawks will have a week off to re-group and find a way forward to their first win. Hawks will return to the Hawks Nest in two weeks’ time to face Adelaide Cobras in a night game for a 7.00pm kick off.