Slice of Cheese

The Friday Forecast: ‘Must Win’ Games Already?

Solstice Photography

Welcome to the Friday Forecast as I take a look at the upcoming action for the weekend. First off, apologies for the lack of content on SOC this week, I’ve been out of action all week but am back on deck now. So first a recap of the major things that stood out from last week and what I learned. Firstly, the Devonport Strikers are snake bitten. There is no way the Strikers should have walked away from last weeks game with anything less than 3 points. It was a goalkeeping masterclass from Jake French that won the game for the Zebras, but this is twice now the Strikers have had the better of top 4 rivals, only to be left ruing their misses come full time. Credit to their opponents the Zebras, who’ve twice now turned things around in the second half of games to win and are showing the fight and resilience that you need to win titles, but this was a major bullet dodged. The second biggest lesson was that Ulverstone are legitimate WSL contenders. After 38 games without a defeat, the Zebras streak ended as they fell to a 2-1 defeat. Most predicted a 2 horse race entering the season; it’s now abundantly clear that number is 3. That was a statement victory from Ulverstone, who had shown all the right signs in the opening weeks, and now have a big scalp to go with it. Finally, if a wallaby jumps out at you when driving down the highway, just go straight through it, can’t stress that enough.

Anyway onto this week and once again it’s the Devonport Strikers whose brutal stretch of schedule continues, this time sending them to Darcy Street to take on South Hobart. It’s a contest that makes me wonder, how early can games be considered ‘Must Win’? I would normally think Round 4 is far too early for such labels, but the fact remains that a loss for either of these sides could leave them 8 points behind the leaders. Of course there is plenty of time to catch up if either can launch a winning streak like they have in the past 2 seasons, but it’s a lot of ground to cede in the title race so early on. They say titles can’t be won in the opening month, but they can be lost. Dropping points on Saturday would be a huge blow for either side’s title hopes, making 3 points for both these sides absolutely vital on Saturday.

Elswhere in the NPL, Northern Rangers finally have their home ground available so they have their home opener against Clarence. It’s a fixture that will always remind me of this classic moment back in 2016.

Rangers will be hoping to avoid such mishaps this weekend and after taking a point in the Derby against Launceston City last weekend should be feeling pretty good about themselves. A glance at social media would tell you they certainly are, but those sentiments will evaporate pretty quickly if they don’t take care of business against a Clarence side that has struggled out of the blocks. Their two road trips North so far have been disastrous and they need to turn things around asap. They will be hoping third time is the charm.

Speaking of turning things around, the Kingborough Lions have done just that, coming close to upsetting the Warriors last week at the Den after claiming a draw with South Hobart the round prior. Late goals against have cost them 2 out of 3 weeks, so maintaining that discipline for 90 minutes is their challenge. And a challenge it will be against the highly potent Hobart Zebras attack. This game is all about Gabriel Markaj’s return to the Den, after his tumultuous period in charge of the Lions came to an unceremonious end here last year. He now comes back at the helm of the Zebras with a point to prove and top spot currently in tow. There should be plenty of feeling in this one down at the Den and it’s a game that looks a lot tougher now than it did a month ago for the ladder leaders.

Then on the Sunday the Olympia Warriors and Launceston City clash in what’s currently a battle between second and third place. With both sides on 7 points, and South and Devonport playing each other, it’s a huge three points on offer. City are yet to play against one of the competition heavyweights just yet, so things get much tougher for them this weekend and we will see if their new look defence can hold out against a powerful offence. Olympia are a tough side to read just yet, but the return of Lucas Hill to a side that knocked the red hot Knights out of the Cup and took a point from the Strikers has them pretty well poised They will be comfortable favourites to take the 3 points here and make their looming Anzac Day clash against the Zebras, a battle for top spot.

Sunday will be a big day for Launceston City, with their women facing their first major test of the season up against Taroona at Kelvedon Park. Having breezed through their opening 3 games, the going gets tougher from here. The Pirates look like the team in the WSL that City are in the NPL; perhaps not ready to make a title push in their own right yet, but have enough quality to shape the title race by taking points from the top sides. With Ulverstone having already marched into Kelvedon and taken 3 points, the onus is now on City to do likewise. A task likely to be made more difficult by the presence of Ashlee Tolman, who looked a terrifying prospect for opposing defenders over the preseason and underlined that last week with four goals in a dominant display against the Lions.

In other WSL action, Ulverstone head down to Darcy Street to play a South side who have carried their Summer Cup form into the regular season and could prove a tough opponent at home. Ulverstone are obviously flying right now, but will have to be on guard against a South team that continues to improve. If you haven’t seen it already, check out Pichon Choi’s match winner from last week that powered her side to a 3-2 win over Clarence.

Hobart Zebras meanwhile find themselves six points back of Ulverstone and City and face the same type of scenario as I flagged for Devonport and South in the NPL. Its early doors to be sure, but points were seldom dropped by the top teams last year and if they were to drop anymore against the Lions, its going to be a long road back for them. As far as must win games go at these stage of the year, it’s right up there. They should have the quality to win this one but will want to rediscover their goal scoring ways, with their 5 goals in 3 games well down on their average of over 4 per game last season.

Finally both Clarence and University have it all to play for when they meet on Saturday, with both sides looking to claim their first points of the season. Clarence collected 7 of their 9 points last year against University, and already beat them in the Summer Cup, so recent form in the head to head games is with them. University have had a brutally tough opening stretch of games against the top 3 sides left from last year all away from home. On their home deck and against a side they finished above on the table last year, this is their best chance yet and with relegation coming in this year, this also looms as a must win game, albeit for different reasons.

Weekend Fixtures

National Premier Leagues Tasmania

Saturday 14 April

South Hobart v Devonport, 2:00pm, Darcy Street

Northern Rangers v Clarence, 2:00pm, NTCA 2

Kingborough v Hobart Zebras, 2:30pm, Lightwood Park Complex

Sunday 15 April

Olympia v Launceston City, 2:00pm, Warrior Park

PFD Women’s Super League

Sunday 14 April

Kingborough v Hobart Zebras, 12:30pm, Lightwood Park Complex

University SC v Clarence, 2:00pm, Olinda Grove 2

Sunday 15 April

South Hobart v Ulverstone SC, 2:00pm, Darcy Street

Taroona FC v Launceston City, 2:00pm, Kelvedon Park

Veto Northern Championship

Saturday 14 April

Northern Rangers v Somerset 2018,  12:00pm, NTCA 2

Launceston United v Riverside, 2:30pm, Birch Avenue

North Launceston Eagles v Devonport, 2:30pm, Brooks High School

Ulverstone v Burnie, 2:30pm, Ulverstone

Veto Men’s Southern Championship

Saturday 14 April

New Town v Taroona, 2:30pm, Clare Street

Metro v Southern FC, 2:30pm, North Chigwell

Nelson v Beachside, 2:30pm, North Warrane

University v Hobart United, 2:30pm, Olinda Grove 1

Veto Women’s Northern Championship

Saturday 14 April

Northern Rangers v Somerset, 12:00pm, NTCA 3

Launceston United v Riverside, 12:30pm, Birch Avenue 2

Launceston City v Devonport, 12:30pm, Buckby Land Rover Park 1

Ulverstone v Burnie, 12:30pm, Ulverstone 2

Veto Women’s Southern Championship

Saturday 14 April

University SC v Clarence, 12:00pm, Olinda Grove 2

Sunday 15 April

South Hobart v Beachside FC, 12:00pm, Darcy Street

Taroona FC v Olympia FC Warriors, 12:00pm, Kelvedon Park

Kingborough v Hobart Zebras, 2:00pm, Lightwood Park Complex

 

FFT Media and Communications Coordinator, Everton tragic, long form journalism devotee, Andrea Pirlo enthusiast and admirer of the parked bus.