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McDonald’s® NPL TAS Friday Forecast: Round 14

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for Round 14 of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania. After this weekend each side will have played each other twice, leaving just one more fixture against each other to be played out. Most notably it will feature a battle of the competition’s top two sides as the Strikers host the Knights in a potentially season-defining day.

Valley Road Title Fight

We will start at Valley Road as the Devonport Strikers host the Glenorchy Knights in the biggest game of the season to date. The Strikers start the day four points clear on top, so a victory would give them a seven-point cushion heading into the final third of the season, which would likely prove insurmountable. A Knights win, however, and that gap will sit at just one point with the title race blown wide open. The stakes are high and this could very well be the day the 2023 title is won or lost.

The Strikers enter the match off the back of their least convincing fortnight of the season, which given they won last week, says a lot about how well they have been going this year. Still, there is no doubt they appear slightly more vulnerable than they have at other points of the year. A home defeat to South Hobart was followed by a late win over the Kingborough Lions last week that was looming as a second consecutive week of dropped points before the intervention of their brilliant Spanish striker Roberto Fernandez Garrido. Kieran Mulraney’s return to the starting XI was significant, there is no doubt they missed his presence in that South Hobart defeat and he will be important to stopping a Knights side that is starting to find some pop in attack.

Daniel Sagno is in superb form at present and the addition of Nicholas Naden has given them another weapon in attack. Though the extra goals they’ve scored have seemingly come at the expense of conceding a few more at the back, with 7 of their total of 10 goals conceded this year coming in the past four games.

The previous meeting between the two also took place at Valley Road and saw the Strikers claiming a 2-0 win. A pair of strikes from Nick Lanau-Atkinson and Roberto Fernandez Garrido just prior to half time secure the victory, as the Knights struggled to find ways through the Striker’s strong defence as they clinically shut the game down in the second half.

The two sides will meet for the final time this season on the final day at KGV. Whether it is a live match or a dead rubber remains to be seen, but if Knights can keep it within 3 points heading into that last day we could have a grandstand finish to the season. That only seems likely if the Knights win, or at least get a draw here on Saturday, a Strikers victory and it may well count for naught.

Garrido celebrates his goal against the Knights earlier this season- Solstice Digital

Improving Roos Eye Bigger Scalp

At Windsor Park, Riverside Olympic will look to convert their uptick in form into points, as they take on the Clarence Zebras,

So far, Riverside’s two positive results this season have come against the only side below them on the table and a side that has taken points from nobody else in Launceston United. As such they will be eager to claim a bigger scalp here and perhaps even put some pressure on the Kingborough Lions ahead of them in sixth place. There is no doubt they’ve strengthened significantly in the transfer window and the past three weeks have comfortably been their best of the season. They were desperately close to taking something away from Darcy Street last weekend against South Hobart, who were the form side of the competition heading into that match. But for the woodwork, they would’ve claimed a point with a strong late rally seeing them almost snatch a 2-2 draw after trailing 2-0.

The Clarence Zebras meanwhile need to find some defensive stability. Ryley Wishart has looked like a brilliant addition to their attack and with Xuan Cappellino and they’ve now got a superb international strike pairing. Throw in the always-dangerous Riley Dillon, who will play his 100th NPL Tasmania game this weekend and it’s quite the strike force that the Riverside defence will need to deal with. The defence though has been far less convincing, though given they have been without both their regular starting centre-backs in Adjei and Tilley that’s perhaps understandable.  

The prior meeting between the two, also at Windsor Park, saw the Clarence Zebras claiming a 2-0 victory back in Round 7. Both sides appear to have strengthened since that day though and will field quite different starting elevens this time around.

Xuan Cappellino has been a star of the competition- Solstice Digital

City and South Bid To Extend Streaks

Launceston City and South Hobart will be out to continue their winning ways as they meet at Buckby Motors Park. The hosts have won their past two games to climb back into the competition’s top four, whilst South have kept faint title hopes alive by winning their past four games, including knocking off the competition’s top two sides.

Last week wasn’t quite as convincing from South, almost squandering a two-goal lead to Riverside and they would have done so, had it not been for a combination of the woodwork and Nicholas O’Connell. That said, that all came in a frenetic final 20 minutes where they lost their way somewhat, the preceding 70 minutes prior were completely dominated by South as they seemingly carried on with their terrific run of form that has seen them climb clear into third place.

City meanwhile have righted the ship with a pair of wins in the past fortnight after a midseason wobble that saw them lose three games in a row to fall from the competition’s top four. It’s been much better from Syson’s men the past fortnight and they now take on a South side that they managed to claim a point away to earlier in the year at Darcy Street. That was a 1-1 draw back in Round 7 and it should provide them with some optimism heading into this home fixture, as they look to close the gap to South who currently sit four points ahead of them.

Jack Woodland scored in a 1-1 draw against South earlier this year- Solstice Digital

United Seeks Breakthrough Against Lions

Completing an all-Northern weekend of McDonalds’s NPL Tasmania action, Launceston United continue their search for a breakthrough result as they take on the Kingborough Lions at Floorworld Park. Both sides enter this off the back of 1-0 defeats last weekend, though both would probably be reasonably pleased with the performances they put in.

United hung with Launceston City in the Derby in what was an ugly game that saw very few scoring chances. Given the way they had been leaking goals in the weeks prior, conceding 23 in the month beforehand, that represented a step in the right direction. Without David Owusu their attack lacked a bit of spark and someone to hold things up and bring others into the game, but the defence and team commitment to defending appeared much stronger. The Lions have been a free-scoring attack for most of the season, though Kobe Kemp’s absence will dent that, so they are going to need to replicate that defensive effort here if they are to finally get a point or three.

The Lions pushed the Strikers all the way and could easily have taken something from the game before falling to Fernandez Garrido’s brilliant goal. They are now seven points adrift of the competition’s top four and if they want any hope of finishing in those positions then they simply must take three points here. Last time around they handled United comfortably, storming to a 4-0 victory at this same venue.

Round 14

Saturday 15 July

Devonport Strikers v Glenorchy Knights, 2:30pm, Valley Road

Riverside Olympic v Clarence Zebras, 2:30pm, Windsor Park

Launceston United v Kingborough Lions, 3:45pm, Birch Avenue

Launceston City v South Hobart, 4:45pm, Buckby Motors Park