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McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R21

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for the final time this season as we reach the last weekend of the 2022 McDonalds NPL Tasmania season.

The majority of the final finishing positions are locked in ahead of the final set of games with just second and third place still left up for grabs. Individual awards may not yet be settled, and everyone wants to end the season on a high, so there is still plenty worth playing for but it’s fair to say that team motivations aren’t always fully dialled in at this time of the year and that can lead to some upset results.

The end of the season games will be followed by the usual awards night which I will cover off on, as well as give my own ballot for in the final Weekend Wash-up for the year on Monday. Till then, let’s dive in one final time for the fixtures that lie ahead of us in Round 21. 

Lions Look to Keep Second Place Hopes Alive on Friday Night

The round kicks off on Friday night with the Kingborough Lions and Glenorchy Knights clashing at Empire Couriers Park. This a fixture that has been shifted due to the work on KGV putting it out of action and I suppose that explains why it’s on a Friday night rather than the Saturday afternoon for the traditional final afternoon simultaneous kick-offs, given there is no title race to be impacted. 

The Lions are one of only two sides capable of changing their finishing position on the table this weekend. If they win this game then they will leap above South Hobart into second place, though they will then also be counting on Riverside holding South Hobart to at least a draw on Saturday to remain there. Whilst unlikely, Riverside have held South at Darcy Street once already this season, so the Lions have some hope if they are able to get the job done over the Knights.

Any hopes the Knights had of catching the Lions evaporated last week when they fell to the Warriors, leaving them four points behind and now having dropped three of their past five matches. It’s not quite the season they envisaged when they set about defending their title and after beating the Strikers back in Round 2, they just never really kicked on and hit any great heights. So it will be a fourth-place finish for Knights this season regardless of how this plays out but a win will take them to 40 points which isn’t a bad mark for a season that didn’t meet expectations. 

The Lions and Knights have met twice this year with the sides splitting the meetings one apiece. The Knights struck late to win the first meeting 3-1 before the Lions turned the table and ran out 4-1 victors the second time around. If the Lions want to give themselves a chance of second, then they need to play just as they did in that second clash, which was one of their best of the year. 

South Can Lock in Second Place Against Riverside

The final day of the season will get underway at Darcy Street with South Hobart playing host to Riverside Olympic on Saturday. 

South will be aware of the scenario ahead of kick-off as to whether they require the win to finish in second place or not. Having been left extremely frustrated back in Round 14 when they failed to convert their chances when they were held to a 1-1 draw by this Riverside team, I suspect South might have plenty of motivation for the fixture regardless. 

The five years since South last won the title may feel like a drought to a club so accustomed to winning titles, but they remain a model of consistency and this will be another season that sees them finishing top 3, something they’ve done every year since the NPL’s inception. That’s all been under the stewardship of Ken Morton, who will coach his 200thNPL Tasmania fixture this weekend. His record in that time is 143-24-32, a remarkable 71.85% winning record across nine seasons that includes 3 league titles. It’s the type of record that feels unlikely to ever be matched and is a testament to the job he has done at the club. He is a titan of Tasmanian Football and deserves a large amount of the credit for forging South into the NPL powerhouse they’ve been. 

Riverside are resigned to a last-placed finish even if they were to win this game but after a horror start to the year things have improved significantly. The improvement has largely been driven by the defence and an overall improvement in the defensive commitment to the game plan. After shipping 64 goals in their first 13 games, posting an 0-1-13 record. They’ve now gone 1-2-4 across the past 7 and conceded just the 14 in those 7 games. The starting point for this late season form reversal was the 1-1 draw they achieved at Darcy Street and so they have the blueprint for success here, producing it it for a second time will be easier said than done, however. 

Warriors Look to End Season By Stringing Wins

Elsewhere on Saturday the Olympia Warriors also welcome Launceston opposition down South as they entertain Launceston City at Empire Couriers Park. 

Olympia are in a similar boat to Riverside in that, on the whole, it’s been a very tough year with disappointing results but the longer it has worn on the better they have got. That shone through last week when they had their best win of the season by downing the Glenorchy Knights 3-1. They now have an out of form City side with nothing much to play for, offering them an ideal chance to end the season with consecutive wins. Their young players have gotten better and better as the year has worn on and here is one final chance to demonstrate that improvement. 

City have fallen away down the stretch and enter this one without a win from their past six outings, with just a draw with Riverside the only addition to their points tally of 26, which had threatened to be much higher. They haven’t been getting blown out with the exception of the South Hobart match, but goal scoring has been a major issue for them. With 4-0 and 2-1 wins over the Warriors this year as well as the 17 more points that they’ve accrued, they’ve shown they are a stronger side who should get the job done here, but form lines heading into the game suggest this won’t be a straightforward assignment. 

Champions On Brink of Record Season

The Final game of the season to preview features the Champions Devonport taking on the Clarence Zebras at Wentworth Park. 

Whilst the title has been wrapped up for weeks now, there has been no slowing down for the Strikers who continue to sweep all before them. At this stage they are really just playing for the record books. A win on the final day will extend their winning streak to 19 games and make them the most statistically dominant side in NPL Tas history. The only other angle is Roberto Fernandez Garrido looking to sew up the Golden Boot, but he likely did that last week and with a 4-goal lead over Noah Mies heading into the final round is extremely unlikely to be headed. 

The two prior meetings have both gone to Devonport, though they’ve been close fought matches with the Zebras falling 2-0 and 3-2 in tight battles. 

The Zebras get one final shot at taking a major scalp and taking points from the Strikers for the first time in their club’s history. They showed they are up for the fight and battling away right to the final whistle on the season with a spirited performance against South Hobart last week. With similar intent this week they could pose the Strikers a challenge if they are already in celebration mode and don’t quite bring their A-game ahead of the big awards night to follow. 

The post McDonald’s NPL Friday Forecast: R21 first appeared on Football Tasmania.