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McDonald’s® NPL TAS Friday Forecast: Round 21

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for Round 21 of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania season. We have reached the finish line, with the final day of the league season set to play out on Saturday afternoon with the traditional simultaneous kick-offs. So for the final time this season let’s dive in and preview the clashes as well as providing some reflections on each side’s overall campaign along the way.

Knights Facing Tough Strikers Challenge To Hold Second

We will start at KGV with a top-of-the-table clash between the Devonport Strikers and the Glenorchy Knights. Whilst this won’t be the title-deciding final day showdown that some had hoped when the roster was first released and this fixture was slated for Round 21, it will still have a major bearing on the final ladder.

The main issue to be sorted out on the final day is who will finish second place, Knights or South Hobart? In addition to achieving the higher finish, it will also secure a potentially crucial home-ground advantage in the upcoming Semi-Finals.

For the Knights the equation is simple win this and they finish in second spot. If they suffer a draw or defeat then they can be overtaken by South Hobart and will face a trip to Darcy Street instead of hosting at KGV. Given their two trips to Darcy Street this season saw them conceding 11 goals, whilst they’ve only conceded twice in eleven matches at KGV, that would appear to be a significant edge.

Knights have occupied second place for most of the season, so anything other than a top two finish would be a disappointment at this stage for the Knights. They just weren’t quite on Devonport’s level this season, with results on the road not enough to seriously push for the title, but on the whole it’s been another successful season for Sherman’s men.

The Strikers might be lacking a little for motivation given they have already locked away the league title, but they also probably don’t want to be heading into finals off the back of two defeats. This is a side that usually bounces back in short order and they will pose a tough ask for the Knights. It’s been another brilliant season for the boys from the Portress and whilst they slipped up last weekend, that matters very little as they celebrate a sixth NPL crown in eight seasons. This relentless winning machine just continues to get the job done. Throw in another Lakoseljac Cup triumph and their dynasty just continues to grow.

Six titles in eight seasons for Devonport- Solstice Digital

South Eyeing Second Spot

The other half of the second-place equation comes from the South Hobart v Launceston City match at Darcy Street. South will look to claim the three points from it and put all the pressure onto the Knights, with South ready to pounce should they slip up.

South will be confident of getting the victory in this one, particularly given the respective form lines of the two sides heading into this final day clash. A slow start to the season ultimately cost them a chance to reckon in the title race, as winning just four of their opening nine matches, to post a 4-2-3 record saw them fall too far behind the Strikers. An 8-1-2 record in their next 11 has been much better and more reflective of where the side is currently at. Having tasted defeat in the Summer and Lakoseljac Cups, the NPL finals will be their last shot at getting some silverware from the season. Getting home ground advantage against Knights, where they have won 7-2 and 4-3 against them this season could well prove pivotal. They can’t control the other result, all they can do is lock in the three points here against City.

Launceston City have been a patchy side in 2023, whose best football has been competitive with the top four and it appeared to have them on track for a finals appearance before a late season collapse has seen them tumble out of calculations. It’s been a real mixed bag for the rookie coach Syson and his chargers, from the highs of beating the Glenorchy Knights twice, to more recent frustrations of Derby disappointment at the hands of Riverside and Launceston United. The emergence of Stefan Tantari as one of the league’s very best attackers has been the shining light for them.

Tantari has had a brilliant season for City- Solstice Digital

Lions Out To Extend Streak

At Lightwood Park, the Kingborough Lions will look to continue their red-hot form and extend their winning streak to eight matches as they take on Launceston United.

If South Hobart were to unexpectedly lose to Launceston City, the Lions could even jump into third place and change the expected semi-final matches. That seems unlikely, but then the Lions being this comfortably locked into the top four seemed distinctly unlikely just two months ago. This winning streak came out of the blue, and you have to give Alfred Hess tremendous credit for orchestrating the turnaround. Not just with his coaching either, his form in the Lions engine room has been a real catalyst for this late charge. Winning back to back weeks at Valley Road is going to be a tough ask in the finals, but they are the form side of the league right now and the level they are producing has been scintilating.

United meanwhile have this final chance to get a breakthrough victory and avoid a winless season. They’ve managed to at least pick up a pair of Draws over the past fortnight to get themselves points on the board, but it’s certainly been a difficult maiden NPL campaign for United. A goal differential of -69 tells the story, all too often they were comfortably beaten and not competitive in matches. Growing pains were to be expected after being thrust into the top division though and they now know the standard of the competition and where they need to build towards in the coming seasons.

The Lions have been the form side of the league over the past 2 months- Solstice Digital

Zebras and Roos Looking To End on a High

Finally, the Clarence Zebras and Riverside Olympic will look to end their season on a positive note as they clash at Wentworth Park. The Zebras will enter the match looking to hold onto fifth place, whilst Riverside look to continue their late season surge.

The Zebras had a midseason wobble, where a long losing streak saw them tumbling out of the top four and their coach departing, but a win here will make it three wins from their final four matches under interim boss Alex Tatnell which should help them build into 2024. An unsettled defensive unit that was decimated by injuries probably prevented us from seeing the best of the Zebras this season who were a real Jekyl and Hyde type operation in 2023, and there is no doubt that is the area of the ground they will need to improve in moving forwards.

Riverside have salvaged some respectability about their final record in the second half of the year, building their way to 13 points with a good chance to add to that here on the final day. It was a season that was sliding towards disaster before some reinforcements arrived in the transfer window and they’ve been a far more competitive side ever since. That’s now got to be the baseline from which they build into 2024, because the first half of the year performances were not up to scratch, but they’ve finished the year playing some of the best football they’ve produced since they were promoted to the NPL. Had they had the brilliant Gedi Krusa all season, perhaps things may have been different earlier in the season for them.

Round 21

Saturday 9 September

Glenorchy Knights v Devonport Strikers, KGV, 2:30pm

Kingborough Lions v Launceston United, Lightwood Park, 2:30pm

South Hobart v Launceston City, Darcy Street, 2:30pm

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