Slice of Cheese

The Friday Forecast: Rain and Floods

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for another week with the current outlook, “rain, rain and more rain with a side of flooding.’ How much football we see this weekend I’m not sure, but lets dive in and take a look at the slated action that we hopefully see. Bar the games on the artificial surfaces, we are going to see some heavy tracks which could suit the more physical sides.

This weather reminds me of the FFA Cup in 2016, so we will start at Valley Road where the Devonport Strikers will be looking to bounce back after last weeks, “Battle of Valley Road” game which had more cards than a Hallmark store and will be favoured to do so against the Kingborough Lions. The Strikers have now dropped 6 points from a possible 9 at their usual fortress and will want to go about reestablishing the fear factor the ground has previously held. Not many sides win titles dropping points at home so they will be acutely aware of the need to win this one. Kingborough had moments of quality against Rangers last week, primarily via their silky American Tim Baker but lacked the end product in the final third. If they are to spring an upset in this one then they will need to show more polish as the Strikers aren’t likely to cede them many quality scoring chances.

The other Saturday game is the first Eastern shore Derby of the season, which comes at a time where the Warriors certainly need a lift. They have ended what looked a defining week of their season with 3 losses, falling to Zebras, Devonport and then South Hobart. Had things shaken out differently they may well have booked a semi final spot and moved within 4 points of top spot but late heartbreak in both games has cost them dearly. Clarence meanwhile seem to have turned a corner after a poor start to their season. Draws in their past two home games has seen them steady and the introduction of Sanchez, Ercan and a fully fit Odaine Demar has bolstered them. The Jamaican has been in great form the past couple of weeks and they will need another big effort from him if they are to claim anything from their rivals at Warrior Park.

On Sunday the Italian Derby between the two clubs of Juventus heritage will be the biggest game the two have ever played in the NPL, as it will be a case of first place meeting second. Having relinquished top spot following their 1-1 draw with Clarence last week, Zebras now have the chance to snatch it right back. After winning their first 3 games of the season including victories over South and Devonport, they have now dropped points in a draw with last placed Clarence, been thumped 5-0 by Kingborough and 5-1 by South Hobart in the Lakoseljac Cup. An ANZAC day victory in between has helped them stay in touch but they have certainly struggled to keep up their momentum and reports of coach Gabriel Markaj storming out of the rooms at half time in last weeks draw with Clarence have only amplified things. The wider expanses of KGV should suit them however and Launceston City’s record at the ground has been poor over the past couple of seasons. Whether stats from 2016 or 17 are at all relevant when discussing this City side is another issue though, as they are an entirely new side in 2018 and the results are showing it. This league title chase is a wide open race and having beaten Devonport and Olympia on the road, City have shown they are right in the thick of it.

Elsewhere on the Sunday, Northern Rangers host South Hobart in a fascinating clash at the NTCA ground. Rangers have been good value at home this season and their last month of football has been strong. They look an improved side in 2018 and where as previously you would have South healthy favourites for this game, now it looms as a tough road trip for them. South have put in some good performances this season but not got results, but then last week claimed the win despite being outplayed, they were probably due some luck but they will need to be better this week. The worry for the hosts is that whilst Rangers have at times lagged late in games, South are the masters of running out the 90 minutes. As they demonstrated to devastating effect last week, they will not relent and they will not give an inch.

In the Super League, University are set to take on South Hobart at Olinda Grove but I would be surprised if this one was still at Olinda Grove. You have to think that ground won’t be in any state to host games but if they do get underway, be it here or at another venue this looms as a winnable game for both teams. South have probably had the better body of work so far in 2018 and are probably the favourites but University have picked things up after a poor preseason and have now claimed 2 wins in 3 games. They have typically been a hard side to break down and they seem to have gotten back to that identity in recent weeks which has brought with it the positive results. South will need to show patience but the conditions are not likely to suit their usual passing style of game and a heavy pitch may well suit the more seasoned bodies of University.

On the coast we have a dress rehearsal for a week later when Ulverstone host Kingborough. Those same two teams will meet at the same ground in the Statewide Cup next weekend. Whilst this game isn’t quite as important for either, Ulverstone will especially be hungry for 3 points to keep themselves clear on top as we reach the end of the first full round of fixtures. They should be expected to do so against a Kingborough side who have shipped 17 goals in 3 games against the rest of the top four. Not many sides are going to be able to travel up to Ulverstone and come away with the points and it would take the very best of the Lions to do that.

On Sunday we have the Italian Derby and the top two sides from 2017, who find themselves cast in the role of the hunters in 2018. With Ulverstone emerging as the early front runners, these two sides look the most likely to haul them in, making the points absolutely pivotal in this clash at KGV. The Zebras seemingly can’t take a trick this season, just as Allie Berry and Danielle Kannegiesser return to offer the reinforcements they craved, they now lose Lucy Johnson and Caitlin Roberts for at least the next month. It will make their task all the harder but they are facing a defence that suddenly looks vulnerable. City’s defence has now leaked 13 goals in the past 2 weeks. They proved far too strong for sides in the bottom half of the table across the opening weeks but have been unable to cope with their bigger rivals in the past 2 games. If they are to do what they couldn’t last year and beat the Zebras, they will need to tighten up at the back  majorly.

Taroona are scheduled to play Clarence at Kelvedon Park, or as it might be by Sunday, the upper Derwent River. If they do get this game away, and that’s a major question mark, you’d expect that it will be a very heavy pitch and not at all suited to the passing style of game they like to play. That might give Clarence a shot at springing a surprise and claiming a first point of the season. The Reds welcomed back Amelia Vanderniet last week who is player who can be a huge difference maker for her side. She can keep them in games long after other goalies might have surrendered a lead and if she is at her best she can keep them within striking distance of a Taroona side who haven’t been the most clinical side this year and need to improve in putting teams away whilst they are in the ascendancy.

NPL TASMANIA

Devonport v Kingborough, 2:00pm, Valley Road

Olympia v Clarence, 2:00pm, Warrior Park

Sunday 13 May

Hobart Zebras v Launceston City, 2:00pm, KGV Football Park

Northern Rangers v South Hobart, 2:00pm, NTCA 2

PFD Women’s Super League

Saturday 12 May

University SC v South Hobart, 2:00pm, Olinda Grove 2

Ulverstone SC v Kingborough, 2:30pm, Ulverstone

Sunday 13 May

Hobart Zebras Launceston City, 12:00pm, KGV Football Park

Taroona FC v Clarence, 2:00pm, Kelvedon Park

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