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McDonald’s® NPL TAS Friday Forecast: Round 16

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for Round 16 of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania. With six weeks to go we are into the final stretch of the season. The Strikers continue to close in on the NPL crown but will have to navigate an Australia Cup road trip, as the battle for fourth heats up, with just 2 points separating three sides, and likely only room for one of them in the end of season cup.

Lions Hosting Resurgent Roos

The first game of Round 16 will take place at Lightwood Park as the Kingborough Lions welcome Riverside Olympic to town.

The Lions have scored two thumping victories over the Roos so far this season, so I suspect Riverside will have something to prove here. The last meeting between the pair was an utter dismantling, as the Lions stormed to a devastating 10-0 victory. That represented the nadir of the season for Riverside, but they have reinforced since that day and have been playing much better football of late. They missed the chance to build on that growing form last week when the derby with City was washed out, but it should ensure they are fresh and ready to go for the challenge that awaits here.

The Lions have got themselves back on track the past couple of weeks after losing their way somewhat and are now firmly back in the frame for a top-four finish. The form of their player/coach Freddy Hess has been a big part of this. Since Kobe Kemp went down for the season he has really stepped it up and been in tremendous touch. He was instrumental in the 2-1 victory they achieved at Darcy Street last weekend, which was their first-ever NPL win against South at the venue. If they want to make sure of that top-four finish, then they need to pick up where they left off last week; this is one they simply cannot afford to drop.

Fred Hess has been in fine form- Solstice Digital

Zebras Look For New Coach Bounce Against South

Next up the Clarence Zebras will take on South Hobart at Wentworth Park with both sides looking to rebound from defeats in Round 15.

Life moves fast and the Clarence Zebras are the perfect example of that. The last time these sides met, back in Round 9, the Zebras produced arguably their finest result in their relatively short history by downing South 5-4. That was then followed by victories over the Lions and a thumping 9-1 win over Launceston United that had them well locked into the competition’s top four. With new signing Ryley Wishart starring, they appeared set to be a real force in the back half of the year. Yet a month later and they have now suffered four defeats in their past four games, which has seen them slide down to sixth and the coach has now departed. Brett Pullen resigned following last week’s loss leaving former assistant Alex Tatnell to take the reigns for the remainder of the season. They are still right in the mix for a top-four finish but they need a quick course correction. So can the change in management help produce that? It’s certainly a phenomenon that we have seen time and time again at all levels of the sport, as the short-term sugar hit seems to bring about a change in fortunes. The Zebras will be counting on the new voice changing things here because the last month has seen them unravelling. South won’t be an easy side to do it against, but as we saw the last time these two sides met, and indeed last week against the Lions, it is doable.

South will feel they should’ve taken something from last week’s match, they put three separate efforts over the crossbar from about a combined 12 yards. It’s fair to say they would’ve underperformed significantly on any expected goals metrics. From the scoring looks they created, they simply should’ve scored well more than a single goal. But don’t take your chances, leave the door ajar and sides will punish you at this level. If they don’t take their chances again this week, then this is a Zebras side with the potency in the final third to do as they did last time and cause another boilover.

The Zebras have dropped 4 on the bounce since their thumping win over United- Solstice Digital

Balancing Act For Strikers Against United

The Devonport Strikers will look to take another step towards the league title and tune up for next week’s Australia Cup tie as they take on Launceston United at Birch Avenue.

They will fly to the Gold Coast midweek to take on the Gold Coast Knights in Wednesday’s enormous Australia Cup tie. As such this fixture represents a bit of a balancing act, for the coach Tom Ballantyne, as to how he manages selection. They could well rotate their squad fairly heavily here and if ever there was a fixture to do so, then this one is probably it. With United still languishing at the bottom of the table without a point, a half-strength Strikers outfit would still be expected to take care of business.

It will be fascinating to see how they approach this one, obviously, they still want to win and move 3 points closer to clinching the title. But with a 7-point lead, it’s a luxury they have at their disposal, to keep some players fresh for the more important fixture that awaits them five days from now at the Gold Coast Croatian Sports Centre. Giving them the best possible chance of advancing to the Round of 16 for a third time.

I still expect the Strikers to play something close to their best eleven, unless anyone has any niggles and then look to sub out some of their key movers early in the second half provided they have the lead.

United will certainly hope the Strikers might have an eye to Wednesday, as this looks a particularly daunting fixture for a side who have been routinely overpowered against the competition’s top sides. They will be desperate to find a breakthrough before the season is out, but toppling the Strikers here would be the upset of the season.

Will the Strikers opt to give stars like Fernandez Garrido a rest? -Solstice Digital

Another Tight City v Knights Clash Looms

Finally, we head to Buckby Motors Park where Launceston City will host the Glenorchy Knights in the final edition of what has been the closest matchup of any set of sides this season. City claimed a 1-0 win in their first clash down at KGV, striking a dramatic winner in stoppage time, before Knights turned the tables and did the exact same thing in the Round 9 clash. That was also the script that was followed in a match at KGV last season, so it seems to be a pretty common occurrence for these two to play out low-scoring games decided at the death.

The major difference this time is that the game will be played in the North, with City this time the hosts. They should be fresh and raring to go for this one after their game was postponed last Friday night. With the Lions facing a favourable match-up in their game against Riverside, a loss for City here could well see them sliding out of the top four, albeit with a game in hand. it’s essentially a three-way battle for the one spot at this point between themselves, the Lions and Zebras. It is one that appears destined to go down to the wire, so three points from this fixture would be an enormous boon for City.

The Knights meanwhile will look to keep winning games and hope that the Strikers slip up. They have no margin for error at this point, but with the Striker’s midweek trip to the Gold Coast presenting a heavy schedule, it is possible that the door becomes slightly ajar in the coming fortnight. But only if Knights are perfect from here on out. A loss and that already slim flicker of hope becomes extinguished entirely.

Round 16

Saturday 5 August

Kingborough Lions v Riverside Olympic, 2:30pm, Lightwood Park

Clarence Zebras v South Hobart, 2:30pm, Wentworth Park

Launceston United v Devonport Strikers, 3:45pm, Birch Avenue

Launceston City v Glenorchy Knights, 4:45pm, Buckby Motors Park