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McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R19

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for another week as we hit Round 19 of the McDonalds NPL Tasmania competition. There is not long left to go now, and the title race is officially settled, but there are still some interesting plot points left to play out. South Hobart have seized control of second place on the table but they face a tough game this weekend against the Champions in Devonport. That could allow either the Lions or Knights to sneak back into contention in the final fortnight but they will need to be winning their games this week against Olympia and Launceston City for that to be any chance. At the other end of the table, Riverside Olympic have drawn level on points with Olympia as they look to avoid the Wooden Spoon and could pose a threat to the Clarence Zebras in their clash. Throw in a thrilling Golden Boot race where we have Roberto Fernandez-Garrido, Noah Mies and Nick Morton separated by just two goals and there’s still plenty to play for in these final rounds.

Lions Look To Eclipse Records Points Tally

The Round will begin on Friday Night at Clennett’s Lightwood Park as the Kingborough Lions take on the Olympia Warriors.

The Lions hopes of a second-placed finish were cruelled last week as they fell to South Hobart 3-2, but the season should still end up being their most successful in the NPL era. Their previous best season was last year when they finished in fourth place with 36 points which is a tally they can eclipse with a win over the Warriors. The 12 wins that would take them to would also be the club’s best haul since the inception of the NPL. With games against Launceston City and Olympia to follow they will have the chance to build further on that. South Hobart faces a tough test against the Strikers on the Saturday, so the Lions will be eager to close the gap back to just a point with a win here to apply the pressure on them in pursuit of that second-placed finish in the final fortnight.

Olympia will be disappointed to have thrown away a 2-0 lead against Riverside last week to lose 3-2 as it’s a result that puts them in danger of the Wooden Spoon. Their superior goal difference still has them sitting in seventh spot but they are now level on points with Riverside who remain the only side they have taken points from this year. So if the Northerners were to pick up another point from somewhere in their final 3 games it would mean Olympia needs to do something they’ve been unable to do so far this year and take points from a side above them. Having lost 5-1 and 3-1 to the Lions in their previous two meetings, it will take a significantly improved effort this time around if that side is to be the Lions. 

Top Two Meet at Darcy Street

On the Saturday the Devonport Strikers and South Hobart will clash in a top two battle that should entertain, but is ultimately lacking in stakes. With the Strikers having secured the league title, they don’t really have much to play for here. No doubt they will be eager to end the season on a high and will still push for the win but there is an inescapable reality that it simply doesn’t matter one iota if they lose this match. They’ve already hoisted the trophy and it’s only a matter now of by how far the final margin is. The same is largely true for South Hobart, who are now four points clear in second place following their win over the Lions and so they can afford to drop this game and still finish runners-up. With their final fortnight seeing them take on the Zebras and Riverside at home in games they will be warm favourites in, they have some breathing room meaning this isn’t cutthroat by any means. Hopefully that means we get an open and attacking game rather the cagey defensive encounters top of the table clashes often are due to nobody wanting to risk a mistake.  

There is also some personal hardware on the line of which this game is set to determine. The Golden Boot Race is going right down to the wire and two of the three contenders will take to the pitch. Spaniard Roberto Fernandez-Garrido leads the league with 18 goals, with Nick Morton in striking distance on 16. So whether those two can add to their tallies here and prevent the other guy from doing so, will be an interesting subplot. Noah Mies currently on 17 will have a good chance to add to his tally the night prior. Best and Fairest Medals are also quite often sorted out in these final weeks too and whilst we can’t know what the situation is in those counts, we can assume this game could well be one that proves pivotal in that respect as well. 

Roos Looking To Lift Themselves From Foot of Table

Elsewhere on Saturday the Clarence Zebras will welcome Riverside Olympic to Wentworth Park as they seek their fifth victory of the season and the Roos aim to avoid a last-placed finish. 

The Zebras played a pretty good game against the Knights last week but some sloppy mistakes at the back and not being clinical enough with their first-half chances cost them. On the balance of play and in terms of chance creation, there is plenty they can take away from that performance and if they produce a similar level here then it is likely to result in their fifth win of the season. With the gap sitting at 9 points to City ahead of them and 8 points to Olympia below, the Zebras are all but locked into a sixth-place finish but motivation shouldn’t be an issue given this represents a massive chance at a win that they will surely be craving after such a tough season.  

Picture: Linda Higginson

Riverside are finishing the season in a positive manner and have given themselves a realistic shot of avoiding the last place finish that they had appeared destined to claim for the vast majority of the season. In their last five matches they have earned five points by achieving two draws against South Hobart and Launceston City before breaking through last week for a first victory over Olympia. With their only other positive result for the season prior to those last five weeks coming in their previous visit to Wentworth Park, they’ve already shown they are capable of getting something from this trip. Repeat that effort here and there is every chance they will avoid the Wooden Spoon. With their final two weeks pitting them against South Hobart and Devonport, if they are to avoid it, then this looks to be the spot. 

City Host Knights Under Lights

Finally we head to Buckby Motors Park where Launceston City and Glenorchy Knights will clash for the third and final time this year in a battle of fourth and fifth on the table. With 8 points now separating the sides, those positions are in no real danger of flipping by season’s end with City’s top four aspirations wilting down the stretch after they had appeared a genuine prospect just a month ago. They could still match their highest-ever wins tally in an NPL season of 11 if they were to win their final three games and this is already the second most points they’ve ever accrued in an NPL season. As such, it’s still going to go down as a successful season, but just how successful will depend on how they close it out in these final few games. 

Knights have also faltered a little down the stretch this season but they could still catch the Lions in third place, with a final day clash between the pair offering the chance to catch them if the points gap remains as it currently stands. So they will want to be winning this one to remain hot on their heels in that pursuit and take it to the final day. 

The ledger is split this season, with both sides recording 1-0 victories from the opposing sides’ home games. City struck late to stun the Knights 1-0 in a memorable game at KGV back in Round 5, before Knights turned the table in Round 12 and claimed a single-goal win of their own thanks to an early Thomas Walpole strike. So the pattern has been pretty clearly established over 180 minutes this season, of tight low-scoring football. Chances have been at a premium in both clashes and there is little reason to expect anything different this time around. 

The post McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R19 first appeared on Football Tasmania.