Slice of Cheese

McDonald’s NPL R10 Preview

After the excitement of a Cup Final Long Weekend, we return to the league for Round 10 of the McDonalds NPL Tasmania. After the first few months of the season are intermittently broken up by Cup weekends, from here on out there are no more interruptions. It’s now a straight 12-week dash to the finishing line. Can anyone catch the Strikers?

Derby Under Friday Night Lights

The Round will begin at Windsor Park on Friday night with Riverside Olympic hosting Launceston City in the second Launceston Derby of the year. 

City were far too strong in the first edition of the Derby, cruising to a 4-0 win at Buckby Park. Their form has been a little patchy of late, with an unconvincing draw away to Zebras and heavy home defeat to South Hobart in their past two games. There have been periods within those games they have looked really good but finding consistency over the whole 90 minutes remains their challenge. They haven’t lost to a side below them on the table so far this year though so will be expecting to take the points and retain local bragging rights with a win over their rivals.

Riverside will return to the park hoping that they have finally turned the corner on their dire season with their efforts their last time out a fortnight ago. Their 2-1 defeat away to the Kingborough Lions was probably their best performance of the season and whilst the late winner they conceded would’ve come as an absolute gut punch, it signifies they are on the right track. Still, they have been in this situation earlier in the year, claiming their lone point of the season with a 1-1 draw away to Clarence Zebras which they hoped would lead to a shift in results. They then proceeded to lose 6-0 in their next 3 straight games, all played at home. 

That was against the competitions top 3 sides though and this time around the schedule is kinder. City, Zebras and Olympia are their opponents in the next three games. Those sides sit 5th, 6th and 7th on the table so this is their best chance of finding a breakthrough win. Throw in the local passions of the Derby and Friday Night looms as a big occasion for the Roos. It’s a big three week stretch and it starts tonight. 

No Time to Dwell For South Hobart

The biggest game of the Round will take place at Darcy Street with second playing third as South Hobart plays host to Glenorchy Knights in an enormous showdown between the two sides best poised to give Devonport a run for their money in the title race. 

South Hobart will have no time to lick their wounds following Monday’s Cup Final defeat as their massive weeks continues. It always shaped as a season defining six days and whilst it hasn’t started the way they would have liked by falling short of a Cup victory. They will be acutely aware they need a positive result from this one, or their league campaign may well be doomed to a similar fate. 

Their opponents this week in Knights are sitting in second place, five points adrift of the Strikers with 12 games left to play. Whilst South are currently third, if they were to win their game in hand at home to Launceston City, then they would jump Knights into second and move within 4 points of the Strikers. So the equation is that a Strikers win this week, coupled with a defeat for either side here would see them falling potentially 7-8 points off the pace. There is still a lot of the season left to play out. The heavily front-loaded Cup fixture provides the perception we are further into the campaign than we actually are, but even if we haven’t quite hit the halfway mark, that sort of points gap will still prove a significantly difficult task to try haul in. As such getting three points from this game is absolutely pivotal and with a draw not particularly useful to both sides either, you can expect them both to push hard for the win and potentially roll the dice late on if it remains tied up. 

Last time around it ended locked at 1-1 but South had the better of the chances and should have taken all three. They were wasteful in the final third, something neither side can afford to be this time around if they want to keep up the pressure on the Strikers in the title race. 

Strikers Warm Favourites Over Warriors

The Devonport Strikers may still be in party mode after winning their fourth Lakoseljac Cup triumph in seven seasons on Monday, but their attention must now shift quickly back to the league. Having defended their Cup crown, their focus will now shift to reclaiming the league title that was hooked away from them on that dramatic final day last year. With their main rivals duking it out down South in a blockbuster, this appears to be a fairly straight forward assignment for the current leaders as they take on an Olympia Warriors side who have struggled this year. 

The Warriors results against the top three sides this year don’t make for pretty reading. Four heavy defeats from four games with no goals scored and 21 goals conceded. It was 4-0 down at Empire Couriers Park in the first league meeting between the pair this year, so the Strikers will the be the reddest of hot favourites in this one. 

Image: Solstice Digital

In a game like this, complacency or flatness would seem to be the biggest potential threat, with the playing group coming down off the emotional high of a Cup victory. It would be understandable if they just expected to be able to get the job done comfortably in a game they are obviously heavy favourites in and turned in a flat performance as a result, but I don’t anticipate that happening here. They’ve been in this scenario before and they know the drill. Complacency has never been an issue beforehand and so I highly doubt its something they will let creep into the side this year. They have too many strong leaders in the locker room and have built up too much of a winning culture to allow for it. So unless they celebrated way too hard then this should be a fairly regulation win for the Strikers. It’s a week where they will be hoping for another draw between the chasing pair of Knights and South, offering them the chance to extend their lead on top of the table. 

Stumbling Lions Face Tough Zebras Trip In Safari Derby

In the final game of the Weekend a suddenly stumbling Kingborough Lions side will take on the Clarence Zebras in the Safari Derby. The pair have met once already this season in the NPL and it was a comprehensive win from the Lions, mimicking nature by tearing the Zebras to shreds in a 5-0 win.

But recent weeks have seen the Lions stumble somewhat, with consecutive losses to the Knights and Strikers dealing crippling blows to any title aspirations they may have been harbouring, whilst they needed a late penalty to sneak past last placed Riverside 2-1 in their last match. The bye therefore may well have come at a good point in the season for them, allowing some key players to recuperate and get back to the type of football that had them in the midst of the title race earlier this year. 

The Zebras have made themselves a tough side to beat in the early weeks under new manager Brett Pullen and if he can turn the home ground into a fortress then they could have a more successful back half of the year than their first was. 

Due to not having access to the venue in the earlier parts of the season, the Zebras have a heavily back ended home schedule and will play 7 of their final 9 games at home and 8 of their last 12, starting on Saturday evening. At a venue that typically provides difficult conditions for the sides in the cold of mid-winter in Wentworth Park, they can play a tough defensive and physical brand of football that should make life tough for opponents and lead to more points. In the three games they’ve played at home so far, they’ve lost 2-1 to Knights and drawn 1-1 with both Riverside and Launceston City.

So the recipe for success seems clear for the Zebras. Make yourself hard to beat, scrap away on the heavy pitch and if the scores are level late, you might just be able to sneak an upset over a Lions side who will be favourites, but whose recent results suggest could just be a tad vulnerable at this moment in time. 

The post McDonald’s NPL R10 Preview first appeared on Football Tasmania.
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