Slice of Cheese

Friday Forecast: Back To The League

Whilst it’s easy to be distracted by Russia, and if you haven’t already check out the SOC Guide to the World Cup  the local action is set to continue with another big weekend forthcoming. With the Lakoseljac and Statewide Cup’s now in the rear vision mirror, the NPL and WSL season turns towards the back end. There are no more weekend’s off for cup games, it’s now a 12 week stretch to the finish line. There is still plenty of time left for sides to make their mark, but history tells us if you aren’t in the top few sides at the moment, then the gold is unlikely to be awaiting you at the finish.

Starting in the NPL and with their cup hopes dashed, South Hobart’s attention now turns back to defending their league crown. They enter Round 10 sitting six points adrift of the leaders Launceston City and still very much in the title picture. They will host a Clarence side who have troubled them in their meetings at Wentworth Park but never gotten close on the final scoreboard since their NPL return. Since the start of 2016, South are a perfect 8 and 0 from these games, and although 3-1 is the most common scoreline in those 8 games, its also as close as Clarence have gotten. With South likely to be fired up after last week, and Clarence coming off 5-0 and 7-0 defeats, you’d have to think that record improves to 9-0 barring anything spectacular.

Elsewhere in the South at 2:00pm, Olympia play host to the Kingborough Lions. Olympia had been playing some reasonable football prior to the Devonport game, a 3-1 loss which was probably the death knell on their fading title hopes. They still have enough quality to trouble anyone on their day, but this season now looks more like a developmental year for them and Dale Itchins has given plenty of youngsters meaningful minutes to facilitate that. They beat the Lions 2-1 in the most recent meeting, striking twice late but they probably should have scored much earlier in that game. The break for Kingborough came off the heels of a 3 week stretch against the competitions top three sides. That ended with 3 defeats, pushing South Hobart in a 3-2 loss but it leaves them stuck in 7th place. Whilst their goal difference is significantly better, they are on the same amount of points as they were after Round 9 last season, and they need to start translating improved performances into improved results.

The third game on the Saturday is the always hotly anticipated Launceston Derby between Northern Rangers and Launceston City. Rangers remain one of the only 2 sides to have taken points from City this season, drawing 1-1 in a bruising encounter in Round 3. Sitting six points clear on top, City will be keen to bank the points against Ranger this time as their other title rivals did in the first full round of fixtures. With their next month pitting them against the sides placed 2-5 on the table, this is one they need to win if they are to stay on course for a stunning title win. Rangers meanwhile have struggled since the departure of their mercurial Argentinian Federico Cano, losing their last four games. They need to find a way to play without him if they are to repeat their away result against City and put themselves in position to claim the Derby Cup.

Finally on the Sunday we have a huge game between Hobart Zebras and Devonport. The Strikers should be riding high after their cup triumph but there is always the threat of the Cup hangover, (not a literal one, though I am sure there were a few sore heads on Tuesday) but rather the mental letdown of not quite being as up for the game as you were the week prior.  It certainly wasn’t an issue in 2016 and coach Chris Gallo knows how important this game is, so they should be ready to keep on rolling. The Zebras are one of only 2 teams to defeat the Strikers to far in 2018, winning 2-1 in Round 3 thanks largely to a huge performance from goalkeeper Jake French in the first half. In the second half it was Mathew Sanders scoring twice to power them to victory but since that result the Zebras league form has waned. They now sit in fourth place, 7 points behind the leaders Launceston City, but just 3 behind the second placed Devonport. A win on Sunday would thrust them right into the thick of the title race, whilst a defeat could spell the end of their League title hopes.

To the Women’s Super League and just the one game on the Saturday as University take on a Launceston City side who have had 2 weeks to stew on their shock defeat to Clarence in Round 9. University can certainly take heart from that result and attempt to emulate the performance. City struggled to break down a well organised Clarence team and the Students are certainly a well structured playing group. City simply cannot afford to drop points in this one if they want to push Ulverstone for the title. With the Reds facing a tough away trip this round, this could be a weekend that City make some inroads into that six point buffer, but they will need to be much better than they were against Clarence, to beat a University side who have been inconsistent, but at times a very tough nut to crack.

That tough trip awaiting Ulverstone is an away game against the Hobart Zebras at KGV. The Zebras seemed to be getting back on track just prior to the bye, running out convincing winners over South Hobart and University after seemingly reaching their nadir in a toothless 4-0 loss at home to Launceston City. Now they get the chance to prove it against one of the major players in Ulverstone. Still undefeated in the WSL, this looms as one of the tougher games remaining on their slate and if they can take points from it, they will be very well positioned to keep up the pace at the top. Tune into the Live Stream of this one, it should be a hard fought game and should be a huge result in shaping the title race.

In other Super League action, we have a Cup Final rematch between the Lions and Pirates. Monday’s clash was a wonderfully engrossing game and if this is half as good, then it will be an entertaining encounter. Taroona showed they are the stronger side and they certainly deserved the win, but Kingborough also demonstrated what they are capable of if they are allowed to linger in the contest. They gave Taroona an almighty scare in those final 20 minutes, it so easily could have been 2-2 and headed into extra time. Ultimately Taroona just had that extra bit of class, as demonstrated by Adelyn Ayton’s cameo off the bench, and so they hold the edge entering this one but as we saw on Monday, both teams have the capabilities to win.

Finally, South Hobart will play Clarence at Darcy Street to round out Round 10 Super League action. South have thus far been 100% in their games against opponents below them on the table, and edged out Clarence 3-2 in their previous league meeting. Having kept their first clean sheet of the season in Round 9, Coach Craig Westwood will want his side to match that effort, having struggled to keep the ball out in the earlier rounds of the season. They will be favourites, but Clarence’s stunning win over Launceston City could prove the adrenaline shot the Reds season required. Winless, and leaking goals in the rounds prior, the win away to City was a huge feather in the cap and if they can defend with that kind of discipline then more points could soon follow. The arrival of Mady O’Brien has undoubtedly been a stabilizing factor for the Reds, but was last round an outlier? Or the sign of things to come? We will find out come Sunday.

National Premier Leagues Tasmania

Saturday 16 June

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

Olympia v Kingborough, 2:00pm, Warrior Park

Northern Rangers v Launceston City, 4:30pm, NTCA 2

Sunday 17 June

Hobart Zebras v Devonport, 2:00pm, KGV Football Park

PFD Women’s Super League

Saturday 16 June

University SC v Launceston City, 2:00pm, Olinda Grove 2

Sunday 17 June

Hobart Zebras v Ulverstone SC, 12:00pm, KGV Football Park

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

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

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