Slice of Cheese

NPL R7 Weekend Wash-Up

In Round 7 of the McDonalds NPL Tasmania the Glenochy Knights scored a huge win over the Lions to move into second place, the Strikers ground out another win over the Zebras, South Hobart cruised to victory at Windsor Park and some Gedi Krusa magic lifted Launceston City to a win over the Warriors. With the first full round of fixtures now complete, the question moving forward is clear, can anyone catch the Strikers given nodbody seems to be able to score on them?

Knights Hold Off Lions Rally

The Glenorchy Knights jumped past the Kingborough Lions back into second place on the table as they secured a massive 3-1 win down at the Den. In another ‘Knights v Title Contender’ game that proved a real grind with scoring chances tough to come by, the Knights once again found a way to get a positive result and keep themselves within 2 points of the Strikers.

It was a match that really could have gone either way, as the Lions rallied back in the second half and looked set to overrun the Knights before the defending Champions steadied again late. 

Ramiro Villar came within a whisker of handing the Lions the lead in the opening minutes of the match when he fired a good just past the post but it was one of few clear chances they made in the first half. 

After a cagey opening, just prior to half time a clear chance finally came and it fell to Knights. Nick Naden flicked a header onwards for Kyle Vincent to run onto. Three Lions defenders charged back to try deal with him, but Vincent managed to get the better of them all, showing a fine blend of skill and strength to create room to shoot, before dispatching his shot from the top of the box to hand his side the lead at half time.

After the break the Lions were much better and looked likely to get back on terms as the half wore on. McKeown almost volleyed a clever goal home just after the hour mark before Kemp crashed a header past the post 10 minutes later as the pressure built on the Knights defence. 

So it came as no surprise when the Lions did eventually draw level on 74 minutes when Greg Downes bent a magnificent free kick in off the post from 30 yards out to square it up in spectacular fashion.

With all the momentum in the match, it seemed in that moment like the Lions were poised to perhaps run over the top of the Knights, but they were only level for minutes before Knights were able to reclaim their advantage. 

A somewhat harsh looking penalty decision on Adam McKeown for a handball in the box gave them the chance to reclaim the lead from the spot. McKeown’s arm must have been determined to have been in unnatural position, as it surely wasn’t deliberate given he was attempting to clear the ball and lost his balance, kicking the ball into his own arm in the process. 

Up stepped Knights skipper Eli Luttmer who dispatched the spot kick and restored the lead heading into the final quarter of an hour. The Knights would add a third in stoppage time when Thomas Walpole took advantage of a mishit clearance, bringing it down and firing home the sealer.

The win elevates Knights above the Lions into second place and two points behind Devonport after 7 games played. A 2-1-0 record against the top four is a strong start in the big games this year and it demonstrates Knights continued ability to get it done in big games so far this season.  

Strikers Shut Out Another Opponent 

The Devonport Strikers remain on top of the table after they ground out a 2-0 win over Clarence Zebras at a wet Valley Road. It wasn’t the Strikers at their brilliant best in this one, as they toiled away and were made to work hard by an organized Zebras outfit, but the end result was never in doubt.

In a first half where clear-cut chances were tough to come by, the Strikers broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark when Brodie Denehey fed Henry Andrews to fire a composed finish from the angle. Denehey would then add a goal himself in the second half as he slid in at the near post to finish off Nick Lanau-Atkinson’s cross. He probably could have had a second soon thereafter but was well denied by a sharp save from Matt Dyson in the Clarence net. 

The Zebras can pleased with their efforts in this one which represented a marked improvement on their performance against the Strikers in the cup a few weeks earlier. They harried and defended well for large parts of the afternoon and whilst they didn’t overly threaten in an attacking sense, they certainly weren’t blown away as they were in the corresponding fixture at Wentworth Park.

Meanwhile the 2-0 win makes it 6 clean sheets from goalkeeper Keegan Smith in 6 NPL Tasmania games this season. The only goal Devonport have conceded all year was in Round 2 against the Glenorchy Knights, a game he didn’t start in. Now sure, he isn’t being worked out to the level some of his fellow keepers in the competition are given the side, and in particular the defence that is parked in front of him, but it’s still a pretty remarkable record and points to his quality in net.  Last season was the only time in league history the champions were not the side to have conceded the fewest amount of goals for the season, with Knights conceding 16 and Devonport 15 which broke a run of 8 years of that being the case, though only just. Ultimately this has been a league where defence has won so Devonport conceding just once in seven games augers very well for them. They may only be 2 points clear as it stands, and they will have to get it done on the road in some big games down the stretch, but right now they are looking very solid.  

Krusa’s Stunner Saves City

The most entertaining game of the round was undoubtedly at Buckby Motors Park where a moment of pure inspiration from Gedi Krusa helped Launceston City overcome a resilient Olympia outfit in a 4-2 thriller. Twice the Warriors pegged back City after they had taken the lead, but a thumping 88th minute free kick from the Lithuanian helped secure the win for the home side with the game in the balance late.

City took an early lead after a high quality finish from Albert Amankwa who pounced on some sloppiness at the back to steal the ball and rifle home a shot into the top corner.

It was a breathless first five minutes to the second half with both sides hitting the net. Initially the Warriors came firing out of the blocks and quickly drew themselves level when Mamic tore down the left and teed up Adam Pickup for the close range finish. 

But the lively Jaden Fidra quickly responded with a fine solo goal, taking it wide on the left before zooming past multiple defenders and placing home a classy finish to make it 2-1.

With 14 minutes remaining City began to push to draw level for a second time and their increased pressure eventually told when Alex Holmes blasted home a volley from a corner to make it 2-2, setting the stage for a grandstand finish. 

Both sides would feel they should have taken the lead with 10 minutes left to play.

First, on 79 minutes Dan Smith fired a glorious chance wide for City that substitute Mackenzie Hancox had put on an absolute platter for him with his cross from the left. Then it was Olympia’s chance to spurn a golden opportunity, though this was less to do with shooter error and more a case of pure Lachie Clark brilliance.

Clark produced an act of Grand Larceny on Adam Pickup, as he pulled off a stunning reaction stop from point blank range by throwing his right glove up and somehow keeping the ball out and the score at 2-2. Had that gone in it would’ve been 3-2 Olympia with 10 minutes to hold out, but instead it was 2-2 when City were awarded a free kick at the top of the box with 2 minutes remaining. 

Up stepped Gedi Krusa, who absolutely lasered one into the top right-hand corner of the goal, thundering his effort in off the crossbar to hand City a dramatic go-ahead goal and give the Lithuanina a goal of the year contender.

Dan Smith would make certain of the three points in stoppage time as Olympia were left exposed at the back as they flooded bodies forward and were caught out on the counter, leading to a classy finish from the Englishmen to seal a wildly entertaining 4-2 win for the home side. 

For Olympia, it was a big improvement and the heart they showed to fight back multiple times from deficits is a positive sign. City meanwhile continue their strong home form, making it a perfect 3 from 3 at the venue so far in 2022 and taking their points tally to 12 from 6 matches, a return they would have to be pleased with at this stage.  

Riverside Improve but South Coast To Victory

In the final game of the round, South Hobart were once again far too strong for Riverside, coasting to a 6-0 win at Windsor Park. For the second time in a fortnight it was Van Doorne and Morton who led the way in attack for South, as they took control of proceedings early on, before adding some emphasis to the final score in the second half. 

Riverside have given away far too many early goals this year which has made life hard for them from the outset in matches and once again that was the case here as South were gifted the lead just 7 minutes in when two missed clearances saw the ball fall for Van Doorne in the box who put his chance away. Ten minutes later Nick Morton was upended in the box and he made no mistake from the spot to double South’s advantage.

Van Doorne scored his second of the match just a minute into the second half as he outpaced the defence to race in and fire home before Bradley Lakoseljac made it 4-0 with a delightful backheeled flick from close range that lobbed the keeper stylishly.

Morton found Divin for goal #5 who swept home a clinical effort before Morton himself rounded out the scoring for the day when he stormed in behind Riverside’s high defensive line and finished to make it 6-0 in stoppage time.

This was always likely going to be a regulation win for South and so it proved as they look to keep touch with the competitions top four. They have bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks but will be pleased with the ease in which they’ve won the past couple of games as their attack sharpens into form. 

For Riverside, It’s pretty tough to find too many silver linings in such a lopsided final scoreline but given they were trounced 11-0 by the same opposition just a week earlier, it does represent an improvement from the Roos and for most of the first 45 minutes they at least did a reasonable job of stifling a South side who cut through them with ease a week earlier.