Slice of Cheese

NPL R8 Friday Forecast

In Round 8 of the NPL Tasmania we have a pair of previews for next weekend’s Lakoseljac Cup Semi Finals, with both Semi Final fixtures set to play out in the league this weekend as South take on Olympia and Devonport host the Lions. Elsewhere we have a rematch of what was a highly entertaining game from Round 1 as City travel to the Zebras, and the Knights will be hoping for a chance to close the gap to the league-leading Strikers when they take on Riverside.  

Cup Dress Rehearsal for South and Warriors

The afternoon kicks off at Darcy Street where South Hobart will be warm favourites to account for the Olympia Warriors just as they did in the season opener back in March. That was a 5-0 thumping in favour of South and a match that rather set the tone of the season for the Warriors, who limped out of the gate and have struggled ever since. With a Lakoseljac Cup Semi Final clash looming just a week later, it will be interesting to see the approaches from both sides and whether any cards are kept close to the chest by the two sides’ respective coaches.

South have got their season back on track with a series of thumping wins over the last three weeks, following a slight dip in the month of April where they went 3 consecutive weeks without a win. They drew with the Lions and Knights before losing to the Strikers which put them behind the eight ball, yet there wasn’t any real sense of panic after that period. After all, they had played well in all 3 games and with a bit of luck would’ve walked away with 6+ points from that stretch rather than the 2 they were left with. This is still a very good side with plenty of goal threat about them and we’ve seen that in their 11-0 and 6-0 wins over Riverside, as well as accounting for the Clarence Zebras 4-0 over the past few weeks. This should be another fairly comfortable win here as they look to close the gap to the top sides.  

Given Olympia’s struggles in the NPL, next week is definitely the more important of their two games, as there appears to be more salvation in the Cup for them than the league at this point. So this is a great chance for them to try a few things out and experiment with some tactics to apply in the Semi Final. Not that they won’t be pushing for an upset win here, but you’d imagine the Cup would be the priority of the two. 

Olympia may have been defeated last week but they can take plenty of encouragement from the final result and it will probably go down as one of their better performances of the season to date. Paired with the Cup victory the week prior and things seem to be turning slightly for the Warriors. Can they now lift their game against one of the very best sides in the competition? Something they have been unable to do so far in 2022. 

Consecutive Valley Road Trips Looming For Lions

We will also get a preview of Lakoseljac Cup Semi Final #2 as the Devonport Strikers host the Kingborough Lions at Valley Road in the NPL just as they will in the Cup a week from now.

Given their respective positions in the league, this NPL matchup may prove just as enormous as the Cup Semi, in what is a match-up of first v third place. The Lions sit five points behind the Strikers after last week’s defeat to the Knights which snapped the Lions five-match unbeaten run and halted their charge up the table. The game was in the balance late on, but not for the first time this year, the Lions just couldn’t quite see the match out and ended up coming up short. Albeit this time they were probably also a bit unlucky given it was a harsh spot kick that was awarded against them, but once again it was a case of them being almost good enough, but just not quite enough for the win. 

The Lions will be trying to make amends for a poor showing against the Strikers back in Round 1, starting brightly before fizzing out and putting in their worst performance of the year. They’ve been a much better side ever since and I expect them to give the Strikers a much greater test this time around despite the shift in venue to Valley Road.

The Strikers continue to prove a very hard side to break down and the Lions will have their work cut out trying to breach this defence that has conceded just once in the league all season. They will have plenty of work to do on the Road down the stretch this year, but for now they get to enjoy a 2 week stretch of playing massively important games in front of their fans at the Portress.

Rematch of Opening Round Classic

Elsewhere, the Clarence Zebras will host Launceston City in an Italian Derby at Wentworth Park. The Round 1 meeting between these two sides remains one of, if not the game of the season to date. In a thrilling contest, it was City who rallied back from 3-2 down to claim a 4-3 win in what was a see-sawing game. Whilst both coaches walked away bemoaning their defences performances, for the neutral it was compelling viewing, and we can certainly hope for more of the same this time around. 

City seem to have been involved in a few classics this season, with a number of dramatic late goals coming in their games. Their 4-2 win over Olympia last weekend was a similarly entertaining fixture that could have gone either way. Football is a game of fine margins and if not for a truly brilliant save from Lachie Clark and a world-class free kick from Krusa they would be heading into this one with a .50 record. Instead, they are filled with confidence having notched 4 wins from 6 games and they now sit some 8 points ahead of the Zebras on the table.  

The Zebras were able to limit the damage against the Strikers last week under caretaker coach Brett Pullen and put in a hard-working shift en route to the 2-0 defeat. They didn’t offer much in an attacking sense, but it was a definite step in the right direction and they should see more of the ball this week to showcase that side of the game and try to pair it up with the improved defensive efforts. 

Knights Look To Keep Rolling On

In the final game of the Round, the second placed Glenorchy Knights head up to Windsor Park to take on the struggling Riverside Olympic.

Knights just continue to find a way to get the results they need. This is a footballing side that simply knows how to win big games and you have to be impressed by their ability to remain unflustered in the big moments. Last week against the Lions the game appeared to be slipping away from them and they were in danger of being overrun late on, but they refocused, reclaimed the lead and walked away with a massive three points. They ground out a win against Devonport despite being second best and also got a point from a game they were out-chanced in against South Hobart. in a results business, coach James Sherman just keeps on getting them. So now as it stands, they are just 2 points behind the Strikers and last week’s win shows that they still likely loom as their biggest challengers. Matches like this week are a matter of taking care of business and not slipping up in a slot where they shouldn’t. Their goal difference is already 7 behind the Strikers, so closing that with a big win here will be the priority and it should be doable given Riverside’s struggles this year.

Riverside were already one of the shallower squads in the league heading into the season and injuries have only exacerbated that problem through the opening couple of months of the season. A fighting point against the Zebras in Round 5 suggested things were turning back around, but three heavy defeats in the last 3 weeks that have seen 23 goals conceded and none score paints a bleak picture for the Roos. They urgently need a circuit breaker or something to get their season firing, but till they produce it, it’s hard to see where it is coming from based on the recent run of results. 

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