Slice of Cheese

McDonald’s NPL R11 Friday Forecast

The McDonald’s NPL Tasmania officially moves past the halfway mark of its 21 Round season this week as we reach Round 11. It kicks off with a rematch of one of the games of the year as the Lions host South Hobart on Friday night before a trio of fixtures on Saturday. There, the Knights will be looking to get their title bid back on track as they play the Zebras, Riverside and Olympia eye off a rare chance for points whilst Devonport look to maintain their dominance of a fierce Northern rivalry when they travel to Launceston City.

Will we get another South v Lions Classic?

The round will kick off on Friday night and whilst it may be cold conditions forecast, this is certainly a hotly anticipated match given what occurred last time South Hobart played the Kingborough Lions. That was back in Round 4 and saw Josh Divin remarkably scoring four times, including twice late on as South rallied from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 in a see-sawing contest. It was the most entertaining game I have personally watched this season, so here is hoping for more of that. They also played out an entertaining, albeit lower-scoring Summer Cup final where South Hobart snuck a narrow 1-0 victory. So the stage is set for an entertaining Friday night showdown and it’s an important three points up for grabs.

Following South Hobart’s comprehensive win over Glenorchy Knights last weekend, they are now the side best positioned to possibly challenge the clear front runners in Devonport. With a win from their game in hand against City, they would be within 4 points of the Strikers and they still play host them twice at Darcy Street. Those will probably be the decisive games in defining the second half of the season, but if they were to slip up and end up too far behind it may not matter, so they need to be on guard here.

The Lions have played a game more but are within a point of South and are equal on points with Knights. If they can produce a big win here, then suddenly they are thrust right back into the mix themselves. It’s a tight bunch between the chasing pack of 3 and whilst the Strikers may yet prove uncatchable, the battle for the best of the rest and a second-placed finish will still rage on regardless of whether they falter. This one will be a big part in sorting that out. Two strong sides, big stakes and a recent history of close games. Friday night should be a cracking clash at the Den. 

Knights With No Margin For Error Against Zebras

The Glenorchy Knights have dropped back-to-back games and suddenly find themselves in need of a win as they take on the Clarence Zebras.

Again the Zebras will head into a game against a top side with their wretched head-to-head record still hovering over their heads. It’s now up to 0-0-18 against the Knights/Devonport/South Hobart and whilst they came very close back in Round 4, by losing 2-1 to Knights it remains a monkey they need to get off their backs. Last week was a setback, losing 4-0 to the Lions in an uninspired performance but they had been showing some positive signs in the weeks leading up to it. 

The slicker surface of KGV favours the Knights who struggled last time at Wentworth but given their recent form it’s still probably looming as good of a chance as the Zebras have had to get that breakthrough against one of the top sides in the competition. 

This should be straightforward for the Knights and allow them to get back on track, but as we saw when they lost to City at KGV earlier in the year they just haven’t been as bankable this season and it’s far from a foregone conclusion. 

Warriors and Riverside Seek to Avoid Wooden Spoon

At Empire Couriers Park, the competition stragglers Olympia and Riverside will take on each other in a chance for some badly needed points for both sides. The Warriors’ only positive result this came against the Roos, a 5-0 win on the road that suggests there is a decent gap between the 7th and 8th placed sides. On the table however that gap only sits at just 2 points, so Riverside have the chance to move from the foot of the table if they can offer an improved performance this time out and take the 3 points.

Olympia might be more vulnerable this time around, they are rather banged up at present and fielded an extremely inexperienced defensive unit away to Devonport last week that was dealt a brutal lesson in how tough life in the top division can be. That’s something Riverside have endured all year, but they come into this one off the back of a better performance, albeit one with the same result. The 5-2 defeat to Launceston City saw them overrun late, but for 70 minutes they fought valiantly and should give them something to build from. 

A win for Riverside and suddenly the battle to avoid last place becomes an extremely tight one. If the Warriors do what they did back in Round 4 then they will have a five point buffer that could prove enough for them. So despite the struggles of both teams, this one does loom as an interesting clash and could be a tight battle. 

City Looking To End Striker Streak

Finally, we come to the ladder leaders Devonport who face a potentially tricky trip to take on a Launceston City side who have been a tough opponent at home this season winning 3 of 4 played at Buckby Motors Park. 

These two sides have played out some extremely tough and physical clashes in recent years and there is little love lost between these sides. That has shone through time and time again on the pitch when they’ve played and it has led to some major fireworks in matches. There was little of that in their earlier clash this season, a 4-0 win to Devonport, though that may be due to the game fizzling out early with Devonport having largely wrapped it up by halftime. 

Despite the fierceness of the rivalry, it’s one that has been absolutely dominated by the Strikers, they have now won their past 11 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 though, defeating the Strikers 2-1 in the 2020 Round of 16, so that breaks the overall streak up, just not the NPL one.

City are still a pretty young side and coming up against this battle-hardened and experienced Strikers outfit could prove a very tough physical challenge in conditions that theoretically should favour the more physical side. But they have the quality in the squad to offer a tough test of the ladder leaders and having knocked off Knights on the road already this year, they have shown they are capable of the big upset.

Devonport are just looking so unstoppable right now that it’s hard to see any other result than them winning though. There is a growing sense of inevitability about another Strikers title and if they keep playing as they have, they simply aren’t going to be caught. 

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