Heartbreaking loss in opener

The Adelaide Hills Hawks senior team travelled to Woodville West for their first round State League 1 encounter against one of the title favourites White City on Friday night. The newly promoted side knew it was going to be a baptism of fire against a side full of experience, guile and skill, including former Australian Youth internationals Cha Noujaim and Jordan Pudler and Japanese import Sasaki who has impressed in pre-season. The big spending club has also secured the services of former Socceroo Damian Mori to coach this season, so big things are expected of the club in 2020.

The Hawks have also strengthened their squad with key signings including Ollie Grant (White City) Jake Forrester (Birkalla), Owen Smith (Cumberland), Jarrah Gardener (White City) and James Lenzi (Cove).

The Hawks started the game aggressively with the midfield of Danny Pauli, Daniel Ryles, Jake Forrester and Daniel Hosking denying their opponents time and space on the ball. This produce dividends on the 9 minute mark when Danny Pauli capitalised on some great lead up work to slot the ball past former Liverpool Youth Team goalkeeper Deale Chamberlain to send the away supporters into raptures.

The game turned into an end to end encounter as White City responded in aggressive fashion. Goal Keeper Connor Hudson pulled of some magnificent save to deny the home side but a crucial lapse in concentration on the 35 minute mark allowed dangerous striker Stefan Simic time and space to finish inside the far post to even the score.

The half time break allowed the visitors time to regroup and reflect on a positive performance in their first game back in State League 1. The key message to the players from the coaching staff was for discipline in the second half. Key player, Lewis Farquhar, started the second half well with some incisive runs at defenders and was duly rewarded when he was fouled in the penalty area and the Hawks were awarded a penalty. Hosking coolly slotted the penalty away to put the Hawks into the lead for a second time.

The Hawks defence of Nathan Elliott, Jake Loechel, Reece Markham and Owen Smith worked tirelessly to nullify a determine White City attack, but the score was levelled again when the home side were awarded a soft penalty which striker Harley Gepp despatched to send the home supporters into a fanatic response. The Hawks coaching box received a pummelling from the out of control crowd and it was game on with 20 minutes to go.

The Hawks regrouped and went again but the controversy continued when Farquhar was given a straight red after an altercation between Pauli and playmaker Shane Tobias. The referee consulted the linesman for clarification and sent Farquhar to the changerooms with 15 minutes to go. Remarkably the Hawks received a free kick for the incident which confused everyone. Big man Ollie Grant who had put in a magnificent shift up front was replace by Sam Bowman after succumbing to cramp. Shortly after James Lenzi and Jarrah Gardener entered the fray to replace Pauli and Markham who had also put in energetic shifts for the cause.

With one less player the Hawks defended with great courage but in the 3rd minute of extra time the visitors were struck a heartbreaking blow when former Hawks Best and Fairest now playing for White City found time and space to finish inside the far post. It was a bitter pill to swallow as the final whistle was blown a minute later as the home side supporters went into a frenzy with firecrackers going off to the chants of “Beograd Beograd Beograd” something reminiscent of what would experience in a European football atmosphere.

This is the type of game the Hawks players will need to get used to if they are going to play at a higher level of football. On a positive, the players did themselves with a passionate and skilful display something they need to do for the remainder of the season.

Best in a great all round performance were Hosking, Hudson, Smith and Ryles. The Hawks travel to Playford next week for Round 2 for a Saturday night game.