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McDonald’s®NPL TAS Friday Forecast: Round 11

Welcome to the Friday Forecast ahead of Round 11 of the McDonald’s NPL Tasmania season, as we crest the halfway mark of the season and begin the sprint to the finish.

Knights Face Cup Vanquishers
We will start this week with the Sunday game, given it’s the clear game of the Round and looms as the game with the most important title race ramifications. South Hobart takes on Glenorchy Knights at Darcy Street, as South look to close the gap to the side that sits ahead of them in second place, whilst the Knights look to keep in touch with the Devonport Strikers. With the Strikers likely to pick up three points on Saturday, a slip-up here could leave the Knights 7 points adrift and their title hopes on life support.

The Knights won the previous league meeting between the pair this season, triumphing 1-0 thanks to a fine goal from Rowan Pitt. It’s a scoreline they’ve won with four times this season and as such goals en masse are probably not to be expected here on Sunday.

Having said that, the goals certainly flowed when these two sides met in the Lakoseljac Cup at this venue back in the Quarter Finals as South Hobart hammered them 7-2. Given Knights have conceded just four goals in total in their 10 NPL games to date, the 7 they surrendered on that occasion still ranks as one of the more surprising results of the season. South’s lively attack, featuring Van Doorne, Morton and Berezansky ran riot that afternoon, and the Knights defence will need to do a much better job containing them this time around if they are to avoid a similar fate. Generally, the Knights defence has been impassable, with Harrison and Luttmer building a reliable pairing ahead of Jackson Gardner to make it the real strength of this side.

That Cup game still feels like an outlier and I’m anticipating something much more akin to the 1-0 match we saw in the league meeting. That was a fairly cagey and dour affair with few clear-cut scoring chances. Knights will enter this one in the better form of the two sides, unbeaten in the last month, though South’s past two weeks have been reasonable. Their efforts in the Lakoseljac Cup final were commendable despite the eventual defeat, whilst they looked slick in harsh conditions against Launceston United last week.

It’s a massive clash between two sides who have typically given us some thrilling matches and Sunday should be no exception. For the Knights, they can ill afford to cede more ground to Devonport, whilst South are still in a battle for the top four and have a major need of the points themselves.

South downed Knights 7-2 in the Lakoseljac Cup- Solstice Digital

Lions and City Out To Arrest Slumps

Launceston City will welcome the Kingborough Lions to Buckby Motors Park as both sides look to arrest slides in their season and get things back on track. Both sides are currently sitting outside the competition’s top four places, with City one point adrift of the Zebras and the Lions falling four points behind after their defeat to them last weekend. As such, both will be looking to this match as an important three points up for grabs to get back into that top four mix.

The Lions have lost 3 of their past 5 games, defeating the competition’s bottom two comfortably enough, but also dropping games to the Strikers, South Hobart and Zebras. City have now dropped their past two games and enter this one off the back of their worst display of 2023.

The previous meeting between the two was one of the games of the season and quite probably the most action-packed 90 minutes we have seen. The Lions were reduced to 10 men in the 12th minute and then fell 3-0 down before launching, a furious, albeit futile fightback as City held on to win 4-3. It was a fine exhibition of attacking play, but hardly the type of defending that coaches tend to like.

City’s defence had been tracking in a much more positive direction since that match, having not conceded more than 2 goals in a game between that Round 4 match and last weekend. But then the Strikers came to town, and now City enter this match seemingly reeling, coming off the back of a weekend where they were torn asunder by Devonport and conceded 8 times. They simply had no answers at the back for Devonport and whilst the Lions aren’t on that level, they do have a particularly potent attack that will catch you out if you aren’t switched on defensively. Their 34 goals scored this season ranks second only to Devonport, and they showed in the prior meeting, scoring 3 times despite being to 10 men. Mies, Kemp and Taylor are all major goal threats and will be licking their lips looking at last week’s game tape.

City downed the Lions 4-3 back in Round 4- Solstice Digital

Zebras Look to Cement Top 4 Spot Against United

The Clarence Zebras will look to cement their place in the competition’s top four as they take on Launceston United at Wentworth Park. With three wins in their past four, the Zebras have shot up the table and will be expected to make it 4 in 5 against winless United.

A win here would already have the Zebras achieving their highest points tally in an NPL season since the merger. They’ve already matched the 5-win mark they reached in the past 2 seasons, and with half a year still to play, they are obviously going to extend beyond that significantly. It’s been a breakout season for them and one which has them firmly in the mix for a top-four finish. Taking care of business in these sorts of matches they are expected to win will be paramount if they are to achieve that.

Launceston United meanwhile have continued to struggle and remain rooted to the foot of the table. The opening of the transfer window has been referenced in recent weeks by their coaching staff so it will be interesting to see if they have brought in any reinforcements as they have flagged. The Zebras themselves already have, with the league set to be graced by another Canadian import, a striker Ryley Wishart. It’s United whose squad needs the boost however, having dropped their first 10 games in the division and felled 6-1 the last time they travelled to Wentworth Park to take on the Zebras.

Strikers Expected To Cruise At Valley Road

Finally to Valley Road where the Devonport Strikers will start as overwhelming favourites against Riverside Olympic as they look to extend their lead on top to 7 points and pile the pressure onto Glenorchy Knights ahead of Sunday.

Devonport have cruised against the bottom sides this season and scored a comprehensive 5-1 win at Windsor Park in the prior meeting back in Round 4. With the added aid of Valley Road for this one, it’s hard to see anything other than another comfortable Strikers’ win coming up.

The Strikers were simply outstanding seven days earlier against Riverside’s cross-town rivals, dismantling Launceston City 8-1 in a performance that was as good as any side has produced in any game this year. This was a juggernaut rolling on and building speed as the season progresses, the confidence they played with and sharpness in attack was a joy to watch. Roberto Fernandez Garrido was unsurprisingly at the heart of it all and he continues to make the league his own personal playing field.

Having shipped 20 goals in their past 3 games, it’s been a rough few weeks for the Roos and they desperately need some sort of circuit breaker to try and regain some footing in the season. They’ve got nothing to lose here given the enormity of the task ahead of them and so can play with some relative freedom from expectations, but keeping it closer than the 5-1 they lost last time around is probably the aim here rather than gaining any points. It’s the toughest trip in the league, and comes at a nadir in Riverside’s season, whilst the Strikers couldn’t be flying any higher.

Round 11

Saturday 24 June

Clarence Zebras v Launceston United, 2:30pm, Wentworth Park

Devonport Strikers v Riverside Olympic, 4:30pm, Valley Road

Launceston City v Kingborough Lions, 4:45pm, Buckby Motors Park

Sunday 25 June

South Hobart v Glenorchy Knights, 2:00pm, Darcy Street