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McDonald’s® NPL TAS Friday Forecast: Round 13

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for Round 13 of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania season. With the Strikers’ lead cut back to four points last weekend, the title race remains firmly on, whilst the jostling for positions in the top four remains tightly contested.

Lions Face Rebounding Strikers

We will start at Lightwood Park where the Kingborough Lions will play host to the Devonport Strikers, who enter this game in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since Round 2 of last season, the Strikers head into a match off the back of a defeat and looking to rebound. We know how they responded to their last defeat; it launched that stunning 40-match undefeated run that finally came to an end last week at the hands of South Hobart.

The last time these two sides met it was a pretty comfortable victory for the Strikers, who had too much firepower for the Lions and chalked up a 5-2 win at Valley Road. They will be keen to win this one too and maintain their buffer ahead of next week’s game against Knights and a heavy upcoming schedule with their Australia Cup match now slotted in – they will take on the Gold Coast Knights on Wednesday 9 August at the Croatian Sports Centre, Carrara, Queensland. That puts the game in between fixtures with Launceston United and Launceston City, which is probably about as good a result as they could hope for in terms of the potential impact on their title bid.

At the Den this weekend, they will meet a Kingborough Lions side who have struggled for consistency as the season has worn on and have now been dealt a further curve ball to make things more difficult. Reigning NPL Best and Fairest Kobe Kemp is going to be out for an extended period, which is quite likely to be the rest of the season after suffering a broken cheekbone. Kemp has enjoyed another superb season with the Lions and it’s going to be tough to replace their best player. He was very much in the mix to defend his award from last season and is one of the very best in the State. Someone is going to need to step up in the midfield in his absence.

Kobe Kemp’s injury leaves a big hole to fill- Solstice Digital

In Form South Take On Improving Roos

In Saturday’s other game, South Hobart will take on Riverside Olympic at Darcy Street as they look to maintain their brilliant form post-Cup final. The past 3 weeks have been South Hobart’s best of the season, following a thumping win over Launceston United by knocking off the competition’s top two sides in Glenorchy Knights and the Devonport Strikers.

Given the magnitude of those two wins, the title question has to be asked and it remains a possibility, but their indifferent form earlier in the season still has them a long way back. They remain 8 points off the Strikers, so have very little margin for error, but on current form, you have to give them an outside chance of pulling off the unlikely. They are certainly firing on all cylinders presently.

They comfortably dealt with Riverside up at Windsor Park earlier in the year, scoring a thumping 6-0 win with Nick Morton running riot. It’s been a common story in their clashes across the years and slowing down this potent South attack will be a challenge for the Roos. The 7 goals South have scored in the past fortnight account for 36% of all goals conceded by the Strikers and Knights for the entire year!

Riverside Olympic appear to have improved significantly from that most recent meeting though, with the reinforcements the recent transfer window brought bolstering them significantly. This will be a good yardstick to see just how much they have improved, as it doesn’t get much tougher than a trip South to take on what has to be considered the form side of the competition in the past few weeks. They were on fire in the first half last week though and have further bolstered the squad this week by announcing the return of Aaron Kidmas.

South ran riot at Windsor Park last time the sides met- Solstice Digital

Can Zebras End Their Knights Hoodoo?

On Sunday the Glenorchy Knights will look to keep up the pressure on the Strikers at the top of the table, but they face a potentially tricky task in doing so at Wentworth Park against the Clarence Zebras.

This is a matchup that the Knights have completely dominated since the Zebras’ inception. They haven’t dropped a point to them ever and are a perfect 9 wins from 9 NPL games against them to date. That doesn’t mean they should be expected to coast to a 10th straight win though; this is definitely the toughest and most talented the Zebras side has been in any of those seasons.

The Zebras had a similar record against South Hobart which they’ve already righted, so can they do likewise here at home? Last week against City was a bit of a disappointing result given the form they entered the game in, but had they taken their chances early it may well have been another story. The other thing that stood out was the absence of Pritchard Adjei and how much it hurt them. The giant defender has been immense at the back when he has been fit this season and the Zebras look a significantly better side with him out there. They really have nailed their imports this season, Ryley Wishart has lit things up the past fortnight since his arrival and Xuan Cappellino has been brilliant all season.

The Knights have also done that with their Canadian trio proving amongst the competition’s best. Daniel Sagno has been downright electric of late, whilst Jackson Gardner has been the class goalkeeper of the competition. With Marco Favaro recently arriving to round out that trio from the Great White North, and the return of Nick Naden, who to use an old cliche, has been like a new signing, the Knights continue to grow stronger.

Their title hopes were given a major boost last week as Devonport’s lead was cut back to 4 points, which with 2 head-to-head games remaining leaves their fate very much in their own hands once again. The first of those 2 will take place next week and the last on the final day. Between now and then they need to cut that lead back below 4 points. That can only be achieved by ensuring they avoid these sorts of banana skins. This will be a tough match and it shapes as a particularly important one.

The Zebras are a much better side with Pritchard Adjei- Solstice Digital

Sunday Derby at Birch Avenue

Elsewhere, we have a rare Sunday fixture in the North, as Launceston United take on Launceston City in a Derby at Floorworld Park.

City got a badly needed win last weekend against the Clarence Zebras to snap a slide of 3 consecutive defeats and get themselves right back in the mix for a top-four finish. A defeat would have left them 7 points out of the top 4, but now they are back within a point, it was a crucial win. If they want to ensure they do finish inside the top four then this is not the sort of match they can afford to drop and they took care of business in the first meeting between the pair, a 3-1 win at Buckby Motors Park back in Round 6.

It’s been a baptism of fire for United in the NPL this season, but right now they need a firestarter of their own. They just desperately need something to get them going because right now things are trending in the wrong direction with 19 goals conceded in their past 3 matches since the week off for the Cup Final. The defence continues to leak goals, though that’s not squarely on the defenders’ shoulders by all means – a lack of pressure up the field is making them too easy to cut through. If they can hold out, they do have some lively weapons in attack capable of testing City. Owusu and Mercure have the ability to get past defenders and score, but that matters little when you are leaking at the back.

Round 13

Saturday 8 July

South Hobart v Riverside Olympic, 2:00pm, Darcy Street

Kingborough Lions v Devonport Strikers, 2:00pm, Lightwood Park

Sunday 9 July

Launceston United v Launceston City, 2:00pm, Birch Avenue

Clarence Zebras v Glenorchy Knights, 2:30pm, Wentworth Park