Slice of Cheese

McDonalds NPL R9 Friday Forecast

The McDonalds NPL Tasmania returns for Round 9 action after a week off for the Cup Semi Finals. With another week off scheduled next weekend for the Cup Finals, it’s a slightly stuttering part of the schedule, before the back half of the season becomes less disrupted and will be 12 game sprint to the finish. With Knights and Devonport set to clash this week for the second time this year, who leads out in that dash to the finish will be determined this weekend.

Warriors and Zebras Search For Spark Under Friday Night Lights

The Round will begin with a rare Friday night game, as the Olympia Warriors host the Clarence Zebras at Empire Couriers Park. To say that both sides are in need of a victory is quite the understatement and so there should be plenty of feeling in this Eastern Shore Derby. It’s a Derby the Zebras have utterly dominated since their merger, winning all 6 editions that have played out in the NPL TAS so far.

The two sides met at this venue back in Round 2 and it was a pretty comfortable win for the Zebras. After a tight first 45 minutes, they broke the game wide open in the second half and ran all over the top of the Warriors to storm to a 3-0 win. Since that day, things haven’t gotten much better for the Warriors, winning just the one NPL game against Riverside and suffering an average losing margin of 5 goals. A game against their Eastern Shore rivals offers the chance to kick their season into life and they should feel they are a chance here given the Zebras haven’t exactly set the world on fire since Round 2 themselves. 

Photo: Solstice Digital

Whilst they have been more competitive against the top sides, the Zebras haven’t won a league game since, with a pair of home draws against the two Launceston sides their only positive results, so they’ve actually accrued less points than the Warriors since they last played each other. A win would see the Warriors jump above the Zebras up into sixth place, whilst the Zebras will be looking to extend the gap between the pair to five points. 

Another High Stakes Knights and Strikers Showdown

The two sides that battled it out for both major trophies in 2021 are once again duking it out in 2022 and once again the margins between the duo are extremely fine. On Saturday both will get the opportunity to land a big blow in the title race as the Knights host the Strikers at KGV in what will be the third meeting of the sides so far this season. So far both teams won the games played in the respective Competition that they ultimately claimed last year, with Knights winning their clash in the NPL before the Strikers struck back and eliminated them from the Cup.

The first NPL meeting between the two came in Round 2 and saw the Knights draw first blood as they ground out a gritty 1-0 victory at Valley Road. But as they did in the Cup decider last year, the Strikers proved their bane in the Lakoseljac Cup and exacted some vengeance with a 4-2 win in the Quarter Finals in a more open game than the first. That was the more recent meeting of the two and will be played at the venue this game is, KGV, as will the third and final NPL clash between the pair later in the year. Given both games have been won by the road sides this year, home ground advantage has certainly been shown to be a factor that can be overcome, but theoretically, the additional travel the Strikers face should help the Knights out here. 

The Strikers have a massive fortnight coming up, with a 1 v 2 showdown in the league and then a Lakoseljac Cup Final next weekend. There is always a danger for sides playing in such a showpiece that they could get a bit distracted and cast one eye on that, taking the eye off the ball this week. But this is a side that has been here a number of times beforehand and they’ve not fumbled this situation previously. They are too professional for that and their experience should ensure that’s not a factor this time around. The prize in the league is far too grand to be distracted by the Cup Final just yet, as a potential five-point gap could open up with a victory. Conversely for the Knights, if they can win here they would reclaim top spot and head into the back half of the year as the hunted rather than the hunter. Huge stakes at KGV on Saturday afternoon, you don’t want to miss it. 

Lions Look to Reset Against Roos

At the Den the Kingborough Lions will look to get their season back on track as they host a Riverside Olympic side desperate for something to spark their campaign.  

The Lions threw what they had at the Devonport Strikers over the past fortnight but came up short on both their trips to Valley Road. After a big 5-1 loss in the NPL a fortnight ago, the second week was a much better showing, going down by a narrow 1-0 margin in the Lakoseljac Cup. Still, it now means the NPL is their only hope to take home some silverware in Season 2022 and that appears a daunting task. They’ve pushed the best sides in the NPL so far this year but have come up just short of claiming a win in those games and with an 8-point margin to Devoport, hauling that in appears a very tall order. They’ve taken care of the sides they are expected to beat though and at home against Riverside, this is a match you’d expect them to bank the points in fairly comfortably. 

Riverside are coming off consecutive 6-0 defeats at the hands of the competition’s top 3 sides, as their disappointing season continues. Their only point so far this year came on the road, so perhaps this road trip comes at a good time and perhaps they can catch a Lions side at a low point in their season. Given how comfortable the Lions were in their 4-0 win at Windsor Park back in Round 2 that would represent quite the reversal in fortunes, however and there is no doubt they are big underdogs for this one. 

South Facing Tough Trip to Buckby Park

The lone clash in the Northern half of the state will take place at Buckby Motors Park where Launceston City take on South Hobart in what looms as an interesting matchup to conclude the Round. 

There is only one side that has a perfect record at their home ground so far in the NPL in 2022. That side is Launceston City, who have won all 3 of their home games so far this year. Now that comes with the caveat that those results came against the competition’s bottom 3 sides, but the fact remains that unlike any of the sides above them on the table, they are yet to drop a point on their home patch. This week the challenge level to sustain that record rises significantly against a South side looking to pull themselves back into the title race. 

Photo: Jamie Richardson / Launceston City FC

South will still consider themselves firmly in that race despite currently sitting 7 points behind Devonport. They have a game in hand and despite not getting the results they were after, performed admirably against both the Knights and Strikers. They know they are good enough to take points off them later in the year if they can remain within striking distance, but they have to get themselves into that position first.

This is a game they cannot take for granted. City have some real quality about them in attack and it’s a real banana skin of a match that could prove a very tough slog on a potentially heavy Buckby Park. If South are to haul themselves back into the thick of the title race then it is one they simply must win, but they shouldn’t expect anything other than a very tough fight from a City side filled with confidence when playing at home.  

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