Slice of

NPL R8 Weekend Wash-Up

With the exception of Launceston City and the Clarence Zebras playing out a 1-1 draw, Round 8 produced a weekend of one-sided results across the McDonalds NPL Tasmania with 3 wins of over 4 goals or more. Two of those hidings were unsurprising with South Hobart and Glenorchy Knights winning heavily over Olympia and Riverside largely expected, but the margin of the Strikers win over the Lions certainly surprised. They were definitely the big winners out of the weekend’s action and as the league pauses for Semi Final weekend in the Lakoseljac Cup, there is an increasing sense that they are only getting stronger by the week and could prove impossible to catch.

Strikers Thump Lions Again

For the second time this season the Devonport Strikers downed the Kingborough Lions to the tune of 4 goals, scoring an impressive 5-1 win at Valley Road. In a game that was meant to be a tight contest between first and third on the table, the Lions failed to improve upon the margin of defeat from Round 1 as the ladder leaders flexed their muscles and continued to grow into the season nicely. They are looking incredibly tough to beat at the moment and seem to be improving with each passing week, which has to have their other challengers feeling nervous about their prospects. 

Things could well have been very different had Tom Prince’s early header not been denied by the woodwork as the Lions started out brightly and took the game to the home side, but the Strikers then seized control and scored twice in the space of 90 seconds midway through the half.

Henry Andrews got things started by finishing off a nice move started by Fernandez Garrido who was given the chance to double the lead from the penalty spot just seconds after they had taken the lead. It left the visitors licking their wounds, as an even start to the game saw them two goals down and needing to climb a mountain in the second half. It was classic Devonport, ruthlessly efficient football and making their dangerous moments really in attack count. 

On 52 minutes, Kobe Kemp got on the end of a cross from the left and directed a volley on goal but Keegan Smith made himself big and came up with a stunning save from close range. Had the Lions pulled one back in that moment then it might’ve made for an interesting second 45, but unfortunately for the Lions they were down to 10 men just moments later when Prince earned a second yellow card, which effectively killed off their challenge.

With the extra man the Strikers were never going to be upset, and from there they really put the foot to the throat of the Lions. Bidwell, Denehey and Fernandez Garrido all added second half goals as they stormed to a 5-0 lead before a late consolation marker from Ollie James pulled one back. 

With the pair set to meet at the same venue a week from now in the Lakoseljac Cup Semi Final, it’s going to take quite the turnaround for the Lions to progress, and they are going to need to find a level they have not been able to in 180 minutes of football against the Strikers that has seen them outscored 9-1.

City and Clarence Share the Spoils

In the only close match of the weekend the Clarence Zebras and Launceston City had to settle for a point apiece as they drew 1-1 at Wentworth Park in a week where Brett Pullen was confirmed as the Zebras boss for the rest of the season. 

The Zebras certainly started the brighter of the two sides and came close on a couple of occasions with Hills fizzing a drive over the top and Dillon drawing a good save from Lachie Clark. The wind factor meant they were likely attacking the easier of the two ends and needed something to show from it given their early control of the game. 

The Zebras got their breakthrough from Samuel Tooze, who was waiting on the doorstep for a rebound after Clark made a save at full extension to keep out Riley Dillon. He parried it back into the path of Tooze and the defence was not tight enough to him allowing the Zebras the opening goal.

It should’ve been 2-0 at the half-hour mark as Dillon played through a sublime ball to spring Pace at the top of the box with nobody near him, but a horror first touch from the front man gave City a reprieve. Dillon and Tooze also had chances late in the first half, but the score remained just 1-0 at the break. 

They were made to rue those misses early in the second half when Stefan Tantari weaved his way between multiple defenders before smashing a shot into the roof of the net to level scores up in truly spectacular style. It was a fine solo goal and left everything to play for in the final half hour. 

Both sides had a major chance they will look back on as the moment they undeniably should have led the game 2-1. First Dan Smith for City had an open goal beckoning from the top of the box but could only roll the ball into the upright with the whole net at his mercy. Then the Zebras had their chance from the penalty spot when Ryan Cook was brought down, only for Samuel Tooze to blaze it wide. There were half chances beyond that, but those were gilt-edged and the moments each side should’ve hit the front. 

Ultimately it’s a result that will satisfy neither set of sides but was probably a fair on the balance of play. The Zebras will feel they should’ve scored multiple goals from what they created and this was a missed chance against a side near them on the table in a home game. City conversely will feel they should be beating the sides below them on the table, and the glaring Smith miss meant they definitely should’ve at least been leading the game 2-1, even if they did create less than their opponents over the course of the 90. Plenty to reflect on for both sides then as they take the week off for the Cup Semis. 

Knights Torch Riverside

At Windsor Park the Glenorchy Knights cruised to a regulation 6-0 win over Riverside Olympic as the Roos struggles continued and the Knights bolstered their goal differential with a strong second half.

The Knights took the lead early on, breaking through in just the fifth minute when Hugh Undy volleyed in Adam Gorrie’s cross. That avenue also led to their second as 10 minutes later Gorrie put one on a platter for Vincent to tap home from close range.

Riverside dug in for a while thereafter and seemed to be doing well to avoid the game turning too ugly on the scoreboard after the Knights bright start, but as the game progressed, they seemed to tire and Knights would drive home their dominance on the scoreboard as the second half wore on.

Connor Schmidt scored the pick of the goals, throwing in a nice stepover to completely bamboozle his defender before skipping into the box and firing home truly for their fourth of the match. Goals from Yost, Vincent and a penalty converted by Eli Luttmer would complete the rout as Knights walked away with a comfortable win. 

Bigger fish now await the Knights in their next outing when they will face the Devonport Strikers in a fortnight’s time in the NPL. With the gap to the ladder leading Strikers sitting at just 2 points, it’s obviously going to be an enormous game in shaping the direction of the title. They now have 2 weeks to rest up and come up with a gameplan to get the win. No doubt they will be hoping for a bruising Semi Final at Valley Road next weekend. 

As Rob Shaw noted in his round up in The Examiner, Riverside have now completed something of an unwanted tennis score from their trio of consecutive home matches against the competition’s top 3 sides, going 0-6, 0-6, 0-6. Riverside will continue to have to try limit the damage in these sorts of games and then really target games against sides nearer to them on the table because so far they have not looked anywhere near likely to take points from the sides at the top end of the table.

South Hammer Warriors

It was a similar story at Darcy Street where South Hobart dismantled the Olympia Warriors to the tune of 7-0. It was a thumping win from the home side against a Warriors side who were without their regular #1 goalkeeper in Mitch Stalker. 

The lack of Stalker probably hurt them on the first two goals which would have to go down as keeper errors and rather gifted goals to Morton and Lakoseljac for South. It was the first of 2 for the day for Lakoseljac, whilst Morton would end up with a hat-trick by scoring two more goals in the second half, including a thumping drive into the roof of the net to cap off his treble in some serious style.

Luke Bighin, Josh Divin and Isky Van Doorne also joined in on the scoring as the second half really developed into a bit of a thrashing with South running up the score and winding up heavy winners to draw a psychological blow ahead of next weekend’s Semi-Final against the same opposition.    

It says a lot to how far the Warriors have fallen away in recent seasons that seeing that scoreline wasn’t even much of a shock despite its emphatic nature. There was a time when a South v Warriors game would be must watch and title defining clash, but those days appear in the rear mirror view now. It is going to take quite the 180 for it to be anything other than a South win in the rematch next weekend. But that is of course the beauty of Cup Football, whereas over the course of a league season, the stronger side will almost always win out. In a one-off 90 minutes, anything can happen! So the Warriors need to move on quickly from this, as it will go back to 0-0 at kick off next Saturday night.