Slice of Cheese

NPL Friday Forecast – 8/4

By Andrew Cooling

The NPL Tasmania continues with Round 4 action and for the time being, we have a full slate of games. Let’s hope that remains the case and we can get through the weekend without a Covid interruption after the past fortnight was disrupted. 

South Host Lions in Summer Cup Final Rematch

The round gets underway at Darcy Street on Saturday afternoon with South Hobart taking on the Kingborough Lions in a rematch of the Summer Cup Final. South Hobart won that clash 1-0, in a game that was in stark contrast to South’s 1-1 draw with Knight’s last weekend, producing a host of scoring chances and it really should have seen more than just the solitary goal that was scored. It was a thoroughly entertaining match and if we get anything close to it this time around then the spectators will be getting good value. 

South have started the season well, comfortably accounting for Olympia and then drawing with the defending Champions Knights. They look every bit title contenders and are looking particularly strong in the midfield, where they are seizing control of games and dominating possession. Converting chances has been the only knock on them through the pre-season and opening rounds, but they hardly alone in that department.   

The Lions were made to rue a host of missed opportunities themselves in that Cup final and they are going to need to be much sharper in front of goal this time around if they are to take something from the game. This looms an important clash for the Lions in terms of establishing themselves this season. They were well and truly outgunned in their first shot at a title contender on the opening day of the season, going down 4-0 to Devonport and if they are to show they can compete with the top sides then they need to offer a much-improved performance this time around. 

Northern Rivals Clash at Valley Road 

Also on Saturday afternoon, we have Devonport hosting Launceston City in a clash of Northern Rivals. These two sides have produced some of the more fiery and physical clashes the league has seen in recent times and It’s fair to say there isn’t much love lost between these two sides. That has boiled over on the pitch pretty frequently in their clashes across recent seasons and we could be in for another physical tussle on Saturday. 

The rivalry has been absolutely dominated by the Strikers in recent years, as they have won their past 10 straight NPL TAS matches against City. You have to go all the way back to May of 2018 to the last time that City was able to take points from them, coming in a 3-2 win at Valley Road.

City’s unbeaten start to the season will give them some hope that this might the week they can finally reverse that trend, though there is no doubt they face a significant step-up in quality this week. Their victories over Clarence Zebras and Riverside were encouraging performances, showcasing a dangerous attack that should pose some threat to the Strikers defence, but a road trip to take on the Strikers is certainly their toughest outing of the season. We will get a much better idea of just how much City have improved this season after this game. 

The Strikers meanwhile will be keen to ensure they don’t let points slip at home for the second time in as many outings after their loss to Knights in Round 2. The Portress has been a key part of their dominance in recent years and it will be key once again in 2022 if they are to reclaim the title that they had a monopoly on before the final day of last season happened.  

Roos and Warriors Eye First Points of Campaign

The opening three rounds of the season have not been pretty for either the Olympia Warriors or Riverside Olympic. After 3 games each, neither side has managed to claim a point, or even score a goal for that matter. Riverside has shipped 13 goals and Olympia 12, which is why the Warriors currently sit a spot above the last-placed Roos in 7thplace. This weekend, something has to give, as the two sides play each other to ensure that one of them will be breaking their duck. With a draw, both could do so, but surely neither will be content with a single point as this represents both sides’ best chance at a victory.

So far both outfits have looked well off the rest of the league and whilst there is still a long way to go and both have players to come back into their squads, the early indicators are that unless something drastic changes, it will be these two sides who are going to be battling it out to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. So this game becomes vitally important for both sides and expect both of them to be up for the contest.

Neither of them has played a common opponent yet to compare performances against. Olympia have played South Hobart, Clarence Zebras and Devonport, whilst Riverside have faced Kingborough Glenorchy Knights and Launceton City, so it’s a bit tough to figure out who is actually the favourite here, perhaps the edge goes to Riverside due to home ground advantage they will enjoy at Windsor Park. 

The biggest question mark lingering over this one, is where are the goals going to come from? Neither side has exactly been creating a whole lot in the opening few rounds though Riverside did create some decent chances last weekend against City, but if you don’t convert them then that doesn’t count for much. With 540 minutes of Football between them and 0 goals to show for it, this is the week for their respective attackers to step up and make their mark and kick start their side’s season. A win here could be a springboard, but a loss and suddenly the season is going to start looking mighty long.  

Knights Looking to Maintain Top Spot at Wentworth 

The Glenorchy Knights will look to keep themselves perched atop the NPL Tasmania table as they head across the river to take on Clarence Zebras at Wentworth Park. The last time they travelled there in an NPL game, they ran absolutely riot, smashing nine goals past the Zebras en route to a thumping 9-2 win. Based on what we have seen from Zebras so far, expect a much closer game this time around, closer to the 1-0 result in their Round 20 clash from last year, but Knights should still be expected to claim the three points comfortably enough here.

Knights haven’t quite been at their best so far, but they still sit on top after travelling to Devonport and playing South Hobart, with 4 points from those games. That bodes very well for their title aspirations given there is undoubtedly improvement to come from them. With Zebras, City and Olympia in their next 3, they have an excellent chance to string some wins together and put pressure on the chasing pack, who will have games against each other during those rounds. After playing the role of hunter in 2021, they are now the hunted in 2022 so we will see how they adapt to that newfound reality and the different mentality it requires. 

If they are to cause an upset here then the Zebras will need to do something that they have never done in their first two seasons of existence in the NPL. That is take points off a title contender. Whilst they have been solid performers in the league in their first two seasons, their record reads a combined 0-15 against Devonport, South Hobart and Glenorchy Knights. It’s hardly unexpected given they haven’t been at the top end of the table, but it’s something they will be eager to halt before that number blows out too far. 

McDonalds NPL Tasmania Round 4

Saturday 9 April

South Hobart v Kingborough Lions, Darcy Street, 2:00pm 

Devonport v Launceston City, Valley Road, 2:30pm

Riverside Olympic v Olympia Warriors, Windsor Park, 2:30pm

Clarence Zebras v Glenorchy Knights, Wentworth Park, 4:30pm