- Written by Walter Pless
- Published: 30 August 2013
Photo: Tilford Zebras skipper Jonathon ladic contemplates the outcome [PlessPix]
It’s cup action and knock-out time in the Victory League tomorrow.
Third-placed Tilford Zebras take on league runners-up Devonport City in the semi-finals of the Victory Cup at 4pm at KGV Park, while league champions South Hobart tangle with fourth-placed Olympia Warriors in the other semi-final at 6.30pm at the same venue.
Photo (L-R): Tilford Zebras' Tommy Fotak and Devonport City's Chris McKenna and assistant Nick Owen...three coaches who will be in the thick of the action tomorrow [PlessPix]
Zebras and Devonport must be sick of the sight of each other as they have already met six times this year, with the honours even - two wins, two losses and two draws to each side.
Zebras may have the edge in this clash because Devonport will field a somewhat depleted side.
The North-West Coast outfit will be without captain and defender Nathan Gratton, winger Michael Holden and defender Adrian Foote.
Gratton broke his ankle last week, Holden has glandular fever, and Foote has had tests for a medical complaint and must await the results.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been hit extremely hard with injury and illness in the past week or so and will go into the game with a bit of a makeshift line-up,” is how Devonport coach Chris McKenna described the situation.
“Adrian [Foote] was replaced by young Jack Dance at the back and he played an excellent game in combination with Kieran Mulraney, so he’ll retain his spot for what will be his third game at State League level.
“With another three of our squad unable to train on Tuesday due to soreness, it’s left us a little thin in our squad.
“As a result, we made an injury replacement by taking Gratton out and bringing Connor Lizotte in to give us an extra body for our bench this weekend.
“Connor is a very versatile player that can fill almost any role for us if required, so we have no problem bringing him into the squad.
“We were pleased with Brody Denehey’s return to goal-scoring form last weekend and his response to the challenge we set him was admirable.
“Brayden Mann played arguably his best game for the year for us as well, so it’s pleasing for them to be finishing the season strongly.
“Brayden didn’t get on the scoresheet, but his work rate and the second efforts he put in were very important in securing the result [4-0 win over Kingborough Lions United].
“Zebras’ attacking threats are well documented and will provide us with plenty of challenges over the course of the game.
“We have plans in place to try to nullify their influence and how successful we are in sticking to those plans will probably be the deciding factor in the game.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Tommy Fotak as a coach. Not only is he a very good-looking man, but he’s tactically astute and seems to have a great rapport with his players.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge that the Victory Cup presents and hope we can put in a performance that reflects our successful season to date.”
Mark Page will replace Ethan Engels in the Zebras starting line-up in what is a tactical change, and Engels, Ricky Self and Sam McIntyre will occupy the substitutes’ bench.
“I'm sure as they [Devonport] gather to depart on the team coach, Chris McKenna will make his players pause and reflect on that bronze figure and remind his players what it means to be The Spirit of Devonport, the Face of Football on the North-West,” said Zebras coach, Tommy Fotak.
“We will show Devonport due respect, but the Zebras as always are focussed on our game.
“Sam [McIntyre] is over the groin problem that has held him back in recent weeks and has shown what he is capable of with some excellent cameos in recent weeks.
“Aaron Cairns looked sprightly against the Knights and is on the verge of his best form.
“Adam McKeown and Andrew Clark have been consistently scoring and creating opportunities and will go into this game with confidence.
“Everything indicates a tight and entertaining contest for the fans.”
Given Devonport’s injury and illness woes, Tilford Zebras should win this semi-final at a canter.
South Hobart must be favoured to beat Olympia Warriors in the other semi-final, despite the fact that the Warriors will have Warren Wadawu, Eduardo Cabello and Seung Yong Jin back in their squad after injury.
Cabello broke his ankle in May and has recovered remarkably quickly, but he must surely be taking a huge risk in returning to action so soon.
Photo: Olympia's Eduardo Cabello is taking a risk coming back so soon [PlessPix]
“We are asking the players to focus,” said South Hobart coach, Ken Morton.
“We are happy to be playing at this stage of the season and we are happy to be playing Olympia.
“We have won the league by 15 points, but now it is a knockout competition and we need to be ready for the match.
“We have a terrific squad and almost everybody is fit.
“Joseph Stevens, who has a thigh strain, is our only major concern.
“Kostas [Kanakaris] is progressing well with his rehabilitation and has trained fully and it is possible that he will play in the last SPL match of the season on Saturday [against Tilford Zebras].
“The players are there for us to finish strongly, attack the finishing straight with confidence and try and reach the final.
“The starting line-up will be finalised at the team meeting prior to kick off.”
Warriors' coach Glen McNeill realises the enormity of his team's task against the league champions.
“Meeting South is always a challenge and this will be no different,” McNeill said.
“We are hoping to bring our best performance of the season and rectify what have been disappointing results against them.
In the final Victory League match of the season, Sixth-placed Kingborough Lions United travel to Launceston’s Mitsubishi Park tomorrow for a 2pm showdown with bottom-side Launceston City.
This game was postponed several weeks ago because of poor ground conditions.
The Lions cannot improve their league position and neither can City.
City will be desperate to get a first win of the season and could prove a dangerous opponent.
Whether they can topple the Lions and earn their first win is questionable.