Slice of Cheese

PS4 NPL TAS: Round 7 Preview

Solstice Photography

Last week was another fascinating round of the NPL TAS and the top four now looks pretty set in place but if Devonport’s victory over South Hobart highlighted anything it’s that there is not a whole lot between any of those four sides. Every game between them looks like it could go either way. With the top two sides meeting this week and just three points separating first from fourth, we could well have a real logjam at the top end of the table as we reach the end of the first full round of fixtures. For the bottom four the focus will be on climbing into the top six to ensure qualification in the League Cup at the end of the year, which looks like being just as tight of a battle.

Round 7 begins at the Dune-geon as the red hot Devonport Strikers travel down to take on Clarence United. Devonport were simply superb last week, implementing a brilliant counter attacking game plan that was based around a rock solid defence and utilising their pacey attackers to do damage on the break. Clarence’s defence can be a tad slow so they will need to be careful not to allow too much space in behind or they will suffer a similar fate to South Hobart. Physically they are very strong and aerially they are fairly dominant but that has not been the approach that the Strikers have taken this season with their new look side. Clarence have taken strides this year but will still be keen to claim a big scalp to demonstrate that. At home against a young Strikers side, the Reds will be looking to do just that but as the Strikers showed last week, despite the relative youth of the side, they must be considered among the very best sides in the league.

Later on the Saturday we have Northern Rangers hosting the Lions. Rangers are fresh off claiming a point from Hobart Zebras and have had an impressive three week homestead, with a victory over Launceston City and credible performance against Devonport, pushing them all the way. They have reinvigorated the side with some quality young players and in form Thannhauser and fit again Nick Lanau-Atkinson is making a big difference. They are turning the NTCA into a tough venue for visiting sides and as such the Kingborough Lions will be up against it as they hit the road looking to build on their second point of the season last week. Coach Gabriel Markaj certainly opted for pragmatism over style in the Cup on Monday in what has represented a clear change of direction and style. He is set to field an incredibly young side with 15 year old Conor Bastock in line to debut and join Tobias Herweynen as players born in the year 2001 in the side. He will be without star Striker Benjamin Kovadio who headed back to Western Australia which will hurt them up top as they try find a foil for Danny Cowen who put in a quality season in trying circumstances.

On the Sunday, South Hobart will be looking to bounce back from being shut out last weekend and will fancy themselves against a Launceston City side that they smashed 23 goals past in 3 meetings between the sides last year. City are currently in last place on the table, with sticking the ball in the back of the net proving an all to familiar problem for them. They have played some nice football at stages this season but converting chances has not been a strength of theirs. Against South Hobart at Darcy Street they are unlikely to generate a host of chances, so will need to find that cutting edge that has been lacking so far in 2017. Someone who certainly isn’t lacking for that is Ben Hamlett who made a welcome return to fill the striking void in the Lakoseljac Cup and promptly scored a lazy ten goals against Launceston United! City will need to pay him close attention or he might just put another Launceston side to the sword in the space of a week.South Hobart will be warm favourites for this with their record against the bottom four sides since the start of last season now sitting at 15-1-0.

Then there is the big one on Anzac Day as Olympia Warriors and Hobart Zebras lock horns in a top of the table battle. Olympia overtook the Zebras on the table last week and have now won 5 games on the bounce since dropping their season opener. They are firing on all cylinders with the front three of Undy, Cartwright and Sklenar looking extremely imposing this season. With Gavin Hoy also producing the goods from the bench in recent weeks they are simply stacked for attacking options. The Zebras clean sheet run came to a halt last week but they still boast the leagues stingiest defence, having conceded just three goals all season, so should be a good match up and capable of nullifying that threat however. At the other end of the pitch, perhaps crucially to this battle the Warriors have the tall timber at the back to match the Zebras in the air. Lucas Hill should be a good match up for Luke Huigsloot whilst Paul Stevens, Jake Vandermey and Tom Little all offer plenty of size that could be used to negate the Zebras set piece prowess. These two teams have emerged as the early front runners and it looms as one of the games of the season to date, on Anzac day this should be an absolute cracker and the three points might prove pivotal when it comes to the pointy end of the season.

Round 7 Fixtures

Clarence v Devonport, Saturday 22 April, 2:00pm, Wentworth Park

Northern Rangers v Kingborough Lions, Saturday 22 April, 4:30pm, NTCA

South Hobart v Launceston City, Sunday 23 April, 2:00pm, Darcy Street

Olympia v Hobart Zebras, Tuesday 25 April, 2:30pm, Warrior Park