Adelaide Hills Hawks travelled to Blair Athol on Saturday 29th May to take on the undefeated Adelaide Victory side. With Victory sitting second on the table, Hawks would need to draw on their strength and confidence from the previous round to continue the good form.
Coach Gaz Von Duve was forced to make one change, with defender Nick Walker unavailable due to concussion from the previous round, allowing young Sam Thomas to start in the Right Back position. Captain Nathan Elliott, Goalkeeper Connor Hudson, Jared Daly and Owen Smith completed the Hawks defence, with Scott Harrison, Callum Hutchins and Callum Elms making up the midfield. Ollie Grant was the lone striker up front, supported by wingers Jake Loechel and Danny Pauli.
Hawks started strongly, attacking in Victory’s half and holding much of the possession, creating solid opportunities in the opening minutes. Hawks second chance at goal occurred only four minutes in when Grant turned his opponent, shooting to the near post, which the ‘keeper palmed away. Hawks continued to dominate, camping out in Victory’s half for the next 20 minutes, with Hudson only really challenged once in that period, the attempt forcing him to dive low to save the shot.
It wasn’t until 30 minutes in that the home side started to find their rhythm and pose danger to Hawks defence. However, it was Hawks again with a shot on target in the 35th minute through the influential play of Harrison who found the feet of Grant. Grant then laid the ball off to Elms, Elms striking with his right foot from 25 yards out, the Victory ‘keeper forced to react quickly and tap the ball over the cross bar. When the half time whistle blew, it was Hawks that had created the best of the chances and had dominated most of the play in the opening 45 minutes.
Play resumed, with Hawks continuing where they left off in the first half, looking to open the scoring and pressuring Victory. Coach Von Duve made a sub in the 60th minute, bringing Liam Mullan on for Thomas. Hawks followed with a number of shots on goal, coming tantalising close in the 75th minute when Pauli crossed the ball into Grant who was unmarked in the box. Grant leapt to head the ball into the net at close range, but the ball hit the chest of a Victory defender standing on the goal line. Hutchins rushed in to follow up the ricocheting ball but the defender was able to block Hutchins’ shot. Hawks applied further pressure, peppering Victory’s goal area but couldn’t convert, and it began to feel like the game would end in a stale mate.
With only 7 minutes left in the game Hawks pressed again, Smith playing the ball out from deep in the corner to Loechel. Loechel then crossed the ball in towards goal, forcing the Victory ‘keeper to come out and punch the ball clear in a goal mouth scramble, knocking the ball 25 yards out to the feet of Hutchins. Hutchins reacted quickly, controlling the ball before hitting it with his left foot low and hard, evading the Victory defenders and giving the Victory ‘keeper no chance of saving the shot, the ball hitting the back of the net to take the Hawks into the lead. The Hawks players, bench and supporters erupted in celebration, a release of emotions after the frustrating ‘goal drought’ start to Hawks’ 2021 season
There was time for one more sub in the 88th minute, Jarrah Gardener taking to the pitch to replace Grant. Victory pushed hard to try and find an equaliser in the dying minutes but Hawks held strong to the end, securing the 1 – 0 win.
In another all round good team performance, best for Hawks were Hutchins, Harrison, Pauli and Elms. With back to back wins now, Hawks will return to the Nest next week to take on Fulham United who sit just above them on the table, kick off is at 7.00pm.