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McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R18

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for another week as we preview Round 18 action in the McDonalds NPL Tasmania. The title could officially be won by the Strikers this weekend as they look to confirm their victory in front of home fans as they take on rivals Launceston City. Elsewhere Riverside have their best remaining chance at getting a breakthrough victory as they host Olympia and the Glenorchy Knights find themselves in dire need of a win to keep their hopes of a second-placed finish alive against the Clarence Zebras. On the Sunday that battle for second is set to intensify as South Hobart and the Kingborough Lions meet in the game of the round, with both sides heading into the game in strong form.

Strikers Seek to Secure Title 

Having all but secured the 2022 NPL Tasmania crown, the Devonport Strikers can now make that official with a win over Launceston City on Saturday. Three points from this game will put them mathematically out of reach of both South Hobart and Kingborough Lions with just the three games to come following this one. Having enjoyed another dominant season, a win here will allow the celebrations to begin for what will be their fifth title in the last seven seasons. 

The rivalry between these two sides is a strong one, and it boiled over the last time the sides met with some controversial refereeing adding further fuel to an already burning fire. Quite simply these are two sides that don’t like each other very much and there is no doubt the Strikers would take extra delight in sealing the league crown up against this City side. Conversely, whilst they can’t really go up or down on the table at this point, City have something to play for as they would surely enjoy forcing a postponement in the Strikers celebrations and snapping the Strikers winning streak over them.

The head-to-head record in the league is absolutely dominated by the Strikers and they have now won their past 12 straight NPL TAS matches against City. Not since May of 2018 have City been able to take points from them when they claimed a 3-2 win at Valley Road. There was a Lakoseljac Cup win for City in that time period, defeating the Strikers 2-1 in the 2020 Round of 16 to break the overall streak, but in the league, it’s been one-way traffic, despite some close games. If City are to prevent the Strikers from beginning their title celebrations, then they will have to snap this long Strikers winning streak.

Riverside Eyeing Best Remaining Chance at Win

If Riverside Olympic are to avoid a winless season, then this weekend’s home clash with seventh-placed Olympia looks like their best remaining chance. Having strung together their best month of the season that has seen them taking points from South Hobart and Launceston City, the Roos will be keen to go one better this week and finally break their duck as they take on the Warriors at Windsor Park. 

They’ve certainly improved in recent weeks and will probably feel like last week should have been the week they got the breakthrough. With newfound defensive stability, they know that if they can bring that level of performance to this game, then they will give themselves a strong chance of finally taking three points. 

Picture: Linda Higginson

Yet despite the cause for optimism for Riverside, Olympia will still be expecting to take the points in this one having handled them comfortably in both their previous meetings. In a season that has also been devoid of victories for the Warriors, they have won 4-0 and 5-0 in the two prior clashes which have been their only victories of the year. So they will also be eyeing this one as a rare opportunity for a victory, though they will be hoping to play more in the manner they were a month ago when they pushed Knights, City and South in consecutive weeks rather than the efforts of the past fortnight. Heavy defeats of 5-0 and 4-0 to Clarence Zebras and Devonport have halted some form that they had been building up. Both times they’ve headed into clashes with Riverside this year have come off the back of poor performances however and they’ve had no issues clicking into gear and taking care of the side below them on both occasions, so this week will not be a new challenge in that regard.

Knights Look to Steady Against Zebras

Elsewhere on the Saturday, the Glenorchy Knights find themselves facing a must-win game against the Clarence Zebras as they aim to keep their hopes of a second-placed finish alive. Now sitting five points adrift of South in second spot and four from the Lions in third following recent defeats to the pair, their hopes of a second-placed finish now hang by a thread. They will need to win their remaining four games and hope for other results to go their way. That starts with a game against a Clarence Zebras side they should be too strong for but having imploded against South last week, they might just be more vulnerable this time around. 

The Zebras are yet to take a point from the Knights since their inception and now have a 0-0-7 head-to-head record with them in the NPL Tasmania. They came as close as they ever have back in Round 4 this season, falling 2-1 in a tight game at Wentworth Park but the second meeting was a comfortable 4-0 win for Knights at KGV. With this one set for Wentworth Park, that should aid the Zebras hopes of getting the breakthrough result on what will likely be a very heavy pitch.

Last week saw the Zebras pushing the Lions for 45 minutes but unable to sustain that for the full 90 minutes. It’s been their issue this year, in patches they have played some really solid football and been able to push the better sides in the league. But maintaining that for entire matches has been their downfall and is what they will need to do here to finally get a positive result against the Knights. 

Second Place on the Line as Lions Host South

Second place is very much on the line on Sunday as the Kingborough Lions host South Hobart in a massive clash to round out the weekend’s games. South currently sit a point ahead of the Lions in an extremely tight battle between the sides with this fixture looming as decisive. Whoever wins it will then control their own fate over the final three rounds of the season and won’t have to rely on other results to fall. A draw would achieve the same outcome for South, though also potentially invite Knights back into the frame. The Lions final three games will see them playing Olympia (H) Launceston City (A) and Glenorchy Knights (A). South Hobart won’t leave Darcy Street and face Devonport, Clarence Zebras and Riverside. It’s tight and there is no guarantee that they both win all those games, so winning this weekend becomes even more important. 

The last time the sides met the Lions were finally able to end a truly wretched streak as they defeated South Hobart for the first time in 28 NPL Tasmania meetings, claiming a 1-0 win. The first meeting was arguably the game of the season as they played out a thrilling 4-4 draw. Both have been closely fought games that either side could have walked away with victories from. I expect a similar game here with both sides creating chances, and ultimately the team most efficient at taking them walking away with the win. 

Taking chances is something South are doing with aplomb right now, downing City 10-1 and Knights 5-3 in the past fortnight which suggests their attack is firing on all cylinders. The Lions will need to be on guard here to slow down the surging South side, though with Mies and Kemp scoring plenty of goals of their own, they are also well equipped for a high-scoring shoot-out of a game if it comes to it.  

The post McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R18 first appeared on Football Tasmania.