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McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R20

Welcome to the Friday Forecast as we hit the final fortnight of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania season. The title race may be settled but the minor placings are still up for grabs and there are some interesting fixtures on the cards for this penultimate round of action. It will kick off on Friday night with the Warriors taking on a Knights side looking to move into second place on the table, at least temporarily. The Lions will have the same chance on Saturday but face a tricky trip to take on Launceston City whilst Devonport look to extend their long-running undefeated streak against a Riverside team looking to avoid the wooden spoon. A rare Sunday game (here is hoping for more of them in 2022) will complete the round as South Hobart can ensure it is they who end the round in second place if they can defeat the Clarence Zebras.

Warriors and Knights to Battle It Out

The Round gets underway at Empire Couriers Park where the Olympia Warriors will host the Glenorchy Knights on Friday night. 

The Warriors have endured a difficult season, winning just two times and are now under some threat from Riverside in the battle to avoid a last-placed finish. Riverside have drawn level on points with them, but the Warriors do still hold a significant edge in goal difference. With the Roos facing a final fortnight of Devonport and South Hobart, the Warriors might not necessarily end up needing a point to avoid it but given the Roos have already played out a draw at Darcy Street this season, the threat of the wooden spoon remains if they don’t manage to get anything from their final two fixtures. 

The Knights will be disappointed to have surrendered their league title without putting up a particularly strong defence, but it was always going to be tough for them given the exodus of key players that they lost in the offseason. They currently sit in fourth but could finish as high as second so there is still plenty left to play for in the final fortnight. With the Lions facing a tough fixture on the Saturday this is a great chance for Knights to heap the pressure back onto them with a win against a side they’ve beaten both times they’ve played this season. The first match was a comfortable win for Knights of 5-0, but the more recent meeting that saw them winning 2-1 was a far tighter affair that should give the Warriors some hope they can cause the upset here.

Strikers Looking To Match Best Ever NPL Season

First up on the Saturday we have the champion Devonport Strikers taking on Riverside Olympic at Valley Road. The Strikers enter this one riding a 17-game undefeated streak in the league and having beaten the Roos 6-0 and 5-0 already this season, so you’d expect that to extend to 18 following this one. 

It’s been a stunning season from Devonport, who continued to sweep all before them with a comprehensive 3-0 win over South Hobart last week. If the Strikers win their final two games then they will match the 19-1-1 record they posted in the 2016 season which remains the highest win % that any side has ever posted in an NPL season. They can’t catch the record points tally of 62 that they earned in 2019, but that came in 3 extra matches with the 24-game season. So given their goal difference will be superior to 2016, if they win the final two then it will statistically go down as the most dominant side we have ever seen in the NPL Tasmania. Not a bad effort that! 

Riverside meanwhile are at the opposite end of the table and will need to cause a big upset either here or in the final week against South Hobart if they are to avoid the wooden spoon. Despite a narrow final score, they were disappointing last week against the Zebras and if they allow as many scoring chances as they gave up last week, then this could get ugly. Roberto Fernandez Garrido will be eyeing off the Golden Boot and this fixture gives him a good chance of putting that to bed, having scored a hat-trick last time he faced the Roos.

Lions Face Tough Trip

On Saturday evening Launceston City welcome the Kingborough Lions to Buckby Motors Park for their final home game of the season. 

This will be the first venture to Buckby Park for the Lions this season as both prior meetings between the sides have taken place in the South. They’ve split them one win apiece from those two fixtures. The Lions stormed to a big 4-1 win in Round 6, only for City to turn the tables with a late Tantari winner securing a 2-1 victory in Round 13. So this weekend will be Round 3 and the chance for season bragging rights between the pair, as well as being important in sorting out the finishing order of sides 2nd-4th

City have had produced a strong season though they have squandered it somewhat by claiming just 1 point from their last 5 matches, which was a draw with Riverside. They’ve played South twice, Knights and Devonport in that time period, so it’s not like they have been shock defeats or massively unexpected results, but it will be the difference between them pushing for top four instead of finishing on an island in fifth place. If they can win their final two games it would be a 10 win season though, which definitely surpasses expectations and gives them something to play for here even if they can’t go up or down in a positional sense.

The Lions meanwhile have accrued a record points tally in a season, which is a great achievement, but if they slip up in the final fortnight, they could slide to fourth place which will feel like a missed opportunity. So in the final two weeks of Jez Kenth’s tenure, they will not want to let this chance slip through their fingers. The trip to take on City is a tough one, but Knights did it last week, so now it’s over to the Lions to respond in kind.

South Looking to Lock Down Second Spot

On Sunday South Hobart will take on the Clarence Zebras at Darcy Street in the final game of the round. South are in control of their own fate when it comes to finishing second and will finish the season in that position provided they win their final two matches. 

South Hobart have won the previous two matches against the Zebras 4-0 and 2-0, so they will be looking to complete the season sweep with a victory here. They were outclassed by the Strikers last weekend, but having won the four matches they played prior to that, their form line stacks up pretty nicely heading into this clash. 

The Clarence Zebras are locked into a sixth place finish at this point and so have nothing to lose, but will feel they have something to gain if they can claim a big scalp to end their season on a high. That big victory over a top side is the thing that has alluded the Zebras to date. They are still yet to take a point from any of South/Knights/Strikers since coming into the competition. They are 0 for 8 against Knights and 0 for 7 against South and the Strikers who they now face in the final fortnight. So they have these final two weeks to try and snap that record, or they will head into another season with it hanging over their heads. They impressed last week in all areas but their finishing against Riverside, but South certainly represent a step up in terms of difficulty this weekend and they will need to be far more clinical. 

The post McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R20 first appeared on Football Tasmania.