Slice of

McDonalds NPL R9 Washup

With 9 Rounds of the NPL Tasmania season now completed following the weekend’s action, the Devonport Strikers have opened up a five point gap atop the table courtesy of their stunning come from behind win over the Glenorchy Knights on Saturday. In the space of a minute the entire trajectory of the season shifted dramatically and whilst there is still a lot of football to be played, this does feel like an enormous blow that has been landed by the boys from the Portress. Elsewhere the Lions narrowly escaped a spirited performance from Riverside to win late on, the Zebras continued their Derby dominance and South Hobart tuned up for the Lakoseljac Cup with a classy win over Launceston City. 

60 Seconds on Which a Season Spins 

After 73 and a half minutes of their clash against the Devonport Strikers, the Glenorchy Knights must’ve been feeling pretty good about things. They led the Strikers 1-0 and were 20 minutes away from displacing them on top of the NPL table following Eli Luttmer’s first half penalty conversion. Fast forward 60 seconds and they were suddenly staring down the barrel of defeat and facing a five point gap to the Strikers atop the table. In the space of a minute the game, and indeed the 2022 title race was completely turned on its head in the most dramatic fashion. Blink and you’d miss it, but the Strikers struck twice to lead the game 2-1, which is how it would ultimately end. 

The first came via their inspirational skipper Kieran Mulraney, who rose to head home Nick Lanau-Atkinson’s free kick to square things up. The Knights were seemingly stupefied by this goal, as from the resulting kickoff, Lanau-Atkinson picked Jordan Muller’s pocket before sliding in Ali Dulleh, who stormed in behind the defence and picked out the bottom corner. It took a total of just 10 seconds from the sound of the whistle for the restart to the ball being deposited into the back of the net by Dulleh. It would prove the knockout blow, and though the win was soured slightly by a late red card to Lanau-Atkinson, there was no wiping the smiles from the Striker’s faces post-game. 

Picture: Linda Higginson

The win provides the Strikers with some valuable breathing space on top, opening a gap of five points to the Knights which will offer a reasonable safety blanket should they drop points down the stretch. With a pair of trips to South Hobart and another game against Knights at KGV still to come, that buffer may yet be needed. It’s certainly not title race over, if we look back at the 2021 table, you’ll see that after 9 rounds last season the Knights had a five-point gap on top. By Round 13 the Strikers had displaced them to lead the league. Obviously, we all know how that ultimately ended, but it does go to show that there are probably still a few twists and turns to come yet. It’s a giant stride towards the title the Strikers have taken and it certainly puts them in the box seat, but before we go anointing them just yet, it’s worth remembering we haven’t even reached the halfway mark yet. A lot of football is still to come.

Zebras Notch Another Derby Win

The Round began the night prior at Empire Couriers Park where the Clarence Zebras ground out a narrow 1-0 win over the Olympia Warriors to continue their Derby domination. The victory made it 7 from 7 in the Eastern Shore Derby for the Zebras and was largely off the backs of a solid defensive display, as Olympia pushed hard for a leveller that just wouldn’t come. 

Riley Dillon was the goal scorer, and he was outstanding throughout the contest, willing his side over the line. He is a real leader for this Zebras side and the way he put himself all about the pitch, covering plenty of the ground with a physical edge to boot, certainly demonstrated that. Wins have been few and far between for the Zebras this year and you got the sense he was on a personal mission to not let this opportunity slip. As was the Zebras defensive unit who have struggled this year, but did well in this one to keep out the increasing threat of the Warriors as the contest wore on. 

Picture: Linda Higginson

The lone goal of the game came on 24 minutes when Mitch Stalker did well to keep out a Samuel Tooze shot, but the rebound fell to Dillon arriving at the back post to follow up from the angle.

From there the Zebras threatened to find a second, but Stalker was solid in net and kept out their most threatening moments.

It was the Warriors who probably looked the more likely side to score in the second half, they certainly enjoyed more of the ball, but they couldn’t crack the Zebras defence and find that elusive goal. Whilst this was definitely an improved performance from the young Warriors side, their wait to find some success against their new neighbours continues and they now only have 1 more chance in Season 2022, lest that streak drag on and into a fourth season.

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South Cruise Past City

South Hobart tuned up for next week’s Lakoseljac Cup Final in style as they cruised to a 4-0 win over Launceston City with a ruthlessly efficient attacking display. On the balance of scoring chances, it didn’t feel as one-sided as the end score would suggest, yet the result of this one was never really in doubt.

South took the lead on 15 minutes when Nick Morton slid in to fire home from close range after some nice work from Josh Divin in the build-up. City had their chances to draw level throughout the first half and early in the second but couldn’t quite find the finish or killer pass in the box to unlock South and so it remained 1-0 till the 54th minute when South would strike again.

They doubled their advantage through the Canadian Isky Van Doorne calmly finishing after a wonderful raking cross from Lachie Semmler picked him out in space in the box. Two minutes later, it was game over as Nick Morton got the better of his marker at the top of the box to find room to place a shot into the bottom corner and make it 3-0.  Some poor defending from a corner enabled Gus Higgins to further extend the lead when he finished from a yard out on 75 minutes and ensure it ended at 4-0. 

This was a professional display from a South Hobart side who will now turn their attention to the matter of the Lakoseljac Cup Final. After that, they will look to haul in the 7 point gap to the Strikers, though they do have a game in hand against this same opponent in Launceston City which would see the gap cut to just 4 with a victory there. With 2 home fixtures to come against the Strikers, it’s South Hobart, not Knights who might well be the side who prove the major threat from here on out. Next Monday should give us a nice indication of whether this playing group are capable of hauling them in. 

Riverside Pay the Penalty

The Kingborough Lions narrowly escaped with a victory over Riverside Olympic, sneaking away with a 2-1 win thanks to an 86th minute Kobe Kemp spot kick. The game appeared destined to end locked at 1-1 till the Lions star converted his second penalty kick of the game late on to spare the Lions blushes and rob Riverside of a desperately needed positive result.

Riverside had taken the lead in the first half from the penalty spot themselves when Mitch Jones converted from 12 yards, but Noah Mies cancelled that out with a quality strike from the top of the box just prior to halftime.

The Lions had a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot just after the hour mark but Dan Nash produced a spectacular save to keep out Kemp.

But the Lions star would get a second chance four minutes from full time when Kemp won himself another penalty after getting blocked off in the area and sent tumbling to the ground.

This time Kemp fired home truly and secured the win for the Lions, though it certainly was far closer than they had perhaps been anticipating. Getting back on the winners list was their priority and they ticked that off, but it was very nearly dropped points and not the side we saw drawing with South Hobart earlier in the year.  

Picture: Linda Higginson

The lateness of the goal would have come as a crippling blow the Roos. It has been a tough season for Riverside and the reality is they have just not been in with a chance to take points on many occasions. Here they were about 5 minutes away from a really impressive road result, only to have the rug pulled from under them so near the end. They can certainly be proud of this effort and the fight they showed, but when you’re struggling for results as they are, those platitudes offer little comfort and that one is going to hurt.

The post McDonalds NPL R9 Washup first appeared on Football Tasmania.