Slice of Cheese

NPL Round 5 Friday Forecast

McDonald’s NPL Tasmania Round 5 Friday Forecast

The McDonalds NPL Tasmania returns for Round 5 after the Easter Long Weekend of Lakoseljac Cup Football produced a weekend of mixed fortunes for the NPL sides. Six of the eight have made it through to the quarterfinals, whilst Clarence Zebras and Launceston City found themselves bounced out. 

The draw has already been made for the Quarter Finals, with games to be played on the weekend of 6-8 May. The headline act from the final eight will undoubtedly be the rematch of last season’s epic decider with the Devonport Strikers taking on the Glenorchy Knights at KGV and ensuring one of the top favourites to take it out will be eliminated early. 

Remarkably this will be the Strikers’ 13th consecutive road game in the competition. Granted 3 of those were in the final at the fixed venue of KGV, but that still means they have copped 10 away draws in a row. Given you have a 50/50 chance of drawing a home or away fixture, the probability of that happening 10 consecutive times is 1 in 1024 or 0.0977%! Talk about being down on your luck! Can’t say I agree with any suggestions that home games should be fixed in place to avoid such things unless you’re advocating for 2 legged ties, which I could be convinced of, but then I’m not sure it would fit in the current calendar. But for me, part of the beauty of the Cup comes from the sheer randomness of the draw, unfortunately for Devonport, sometimes that random variance can sting you. Given they have won 2 Lakoseljac Cups and finished Runner Up in another in that same time frame, it’s fair to say they haven’t let that appalling run of luck faze them and it just makes their record in this competition all the more impressive.

The other fixtures will see Kingborough Lions hosting a Hobart United side who impressed immensely with their performance to defeat Launceston City, so the Lions will need to be on guard to avoid United producing another Cupset. Olympia will face a road trip but have avoided NPL opposition as they were drawn to meet Northern Rangers at the NTCA whilst South Hobart got a favourable draw, with a home fixture against bottom-placed Riverside. 

Speaking of Riverside, the other major news of the week came out of Windsor Park were they rather quietly announced that Alex Gaetaini had been relieved of his coaching duties. Got to hand it to them, dropping the announcement at 10pm the night before a public holiday with comments disabled is the about as biggest burying of a story that I think I’ve seen in my time covering Tasmanian Football, Canberra based politicians would be impressed with that effort. 

Ultimately, it’s a results business and after winning just the 1 game last year and starting out 0-4 this season, fairly or unfairly the writing was on the wall for this one. It doesn’t matter what competition you are coaching in anywhere in the world, and whether you have the requisite talent in the playing group to achieve better results or not, it’s simply not a record that many coaches will survive with. All the best to Alex in his future endeavours. I am sure that won’t be the last we see from him. His promotion of youth players in his time in charge certainly deserves praise and suggests he might be well suited for a development role somewhere. Anyway, with the news of the week covered, let’s move on to this week’s fixtures. 

Strikers meet South in Game of the Round

The game of the round will see Devonport hosting South Hobart in a clash of title contenders at Valley Road. Both sides had comfortable victories in the Lakoseljac Cup, with Devonport defeating Zebras 6-0 and South Hobart 3-0 victors over Taroona. Both sides were able to put the cue in the rack pretty early on in proceedings in those games, so they should be primed for this contest despite having both played on the Monday.

Devonport have not missed a beat since their Round 2 slip up against the Knights, dealing with Olympia, Launceston City and Clarence Zebras with ease, not conceding once and scoring some 14 times themselves. They won’t be wanting to drop points at home for a second time against a key rival so this game takes on added importance, especially when you look at their remaining fixtures.

Their remaining four games against South and Knights after this will all be on the road. They play 2 away games against both those sides this year having played them both at Valley Road twice in season 2021. It was to their advantage last season and it played a role in their eventual title success, but this year it will mean things are much tougher down the stretch and will get even tougher if they don’t make the most of their home ground edge here. 

South could likewise be left with some work to do in the back half of the season if they were to drop points in a third consecutive fixture after being held by Knights and the Lions in their past two outings. Neither were bad performances, and their fixture opens right up in the next month, but you never want to be falling too far behind the leaders early on. They will need to be much tidier at the back than they were against the Lions if they are to come away from Valley Road with any points. In Josh Divin they certainly have a weapon who will ask questions at the other end of the park though. He is fast emerging as one of, if not the best striker in the league despite his young age and probably holds the key to them breaching this rock-solid Strikers defensive unit. 

Knights Look To Maintain the Pace At the top 

Glenorchy Knights will look to maintain, or depending on what happens between South and the Strikers, possibly even extend their lead atop the table when they host a Launceston City side looking to rebound from a poor couple of weeks at KGV.

Knights were left frustrated by Burnie for long periods of their Lakoseljac Cup clash before eventually taking their chances late on to walk away with a 3-0 win in a performance that went as much of their season has to date. Once again, they were not quite at their sharpest, but got the result they needed, which is all that really matters. They now host another Northern side against whom they will be heavily favoured against in Launceton City and you’d expect them to take care of business once more. Tyler Harrison has returned to the fold which should strengthen their already miserly defence further and help bolster their depth, which in a covid interrupted season like this could prove pivotal in the long term. 

KGV hasn’t typically been a venue that City have enjoyed playing at down the years, though their last visit to take on Knights was a close game, falling 1-0 on the final day of last season. Having been bundled out of the Cup by Southern Championship side Hobart United last weekend, they will be looking for a response here after their promising start to the season has faltered

Making it tougher will be that they will be without Jarrod Linger for this one and indeed moving forwards, as he has departed for Queensland. Linger has been a key player for City for a number of years and in many ways the embodiment of the ultimate team man. When his teammate’s heads dropped around him on Saturday against Hobart Unted, Linger was still desperately putting himself about the pitch trying to spark something with a determination that those around him simply didn’t have. He has played just about every position on the park in his time at City, acting as the ultimate utility to be plugged in wherever there was a gap and that versatility he brings is going to be sorely missed. Others will need to step up in his stead, and quickly if they are to get anything from this fixture.

With a tough month looming, Riverside need something from Zebras trip

Winless and for the time being coachless, Riverside Olympic will be desperate to get something out of their road trip to take on the Clarence Zebras on Saturday, with a tough run of fixtures set to follow. With Devonport, South Hobart and Knights in their next 3 games, this looks like their best chance to break through for their first points of the season in the next month. 

They will be hoping their win in the Lakoseljac Cup over Hobart City Beachside can kick start their season after a truly torrid opening month in the league that has them sitting in last place with no goals scored and 18 conceded through just 4 games. Suffice to say they are going to need to be a lot better than they have been so far in the NPL if they are to get that first point of the season here. 

The Zebras NPL form has been pretty solid this season. Their last NPL outing was extremely encouraging, they really pushed the Knights and for a short while there looked as if they were going to take some points from the encounter before ultimately Austin Yost brought about their downfall. That was then undone somewhat in the Lakoseljac Cup as they were comprehensively smacked by Devonport 6-0. That was comfortably their worst effort of the season, but they will enjoy a lot more possession this week and should be able to convert that into a win that could lift them as high as 3rd place if other results were to fall their way. 

Lions and Warriors in Anzac Day Clash

The round will finish up on Monday night at Lightwood Park as part of an ANZAC Day double header between Kingborough and Olympia.

The Lions have responded well to their opening day letdown against Devonport and their 4-4 draw with South Hobart in their last NPL outing was a highly credible result. It’s the type of performance we were expecting from them heading into the season and I don’t think it will be the last points they take off the main title contenders this year. The defence still remains a big concern, which is unusual for a Jez Kenth side, but probably unsurprising given the strength of this playing group certainly lies further up the pitch. The offensive firepower at their disposal means they are going to pose a challenge for any side they meet and it should be enough to see them past Olympia here.

After a horror opening few weeks to the year, things have stabilized for Rob Clarke’s men, stringing together consecutive wins in their past two outings. They scored four late goals to overrun New Town Eagles in the cup and claim a 5-3 win, but whilst that showed great character and fighting spirit, you do have to wonder if it would have happened had Luke Huigsloot remained on the park and Eagles not gone down to ten men. With a winnable Cup quarter-final draw, it might well prove one of the big sliding door moments of the season and the Warriors faithful will be hopeful it’s the type of event that can spark some belief in the group and give them some momentum to take into this match and help spring an upset. 

McDonald NPL Tasmania Round 5

Saturday 23 April

Devonport v South Hobart, Valley Road, 2:30pm

Clarence Zebras v Riverside, Wentworth Park, 2:30pm

Glenorchy Knights v Launceston City, KGV, 4:30pm

Monday 25 April

Kingborough v Olympia, Clennet’s Lightwood Park, 6:30pm