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NPL Tasmania Round 17 Preview

Photos: Solstice Digital

Previews: Dan Thurley

Devonport Strikers vs Glenorchy Knights

 

Date: Saturday August 7

Venue: Valley Road

Kick-off: 2:15 pm

2021 Record
Devonport Strikers: 12-1-2 (first in NPL TAS)
Glenorchy Knights: 11-3-1 (second in NPL TAS)

Top Scorers
Devonport Strikers: Brody Denehey (17)
Glenorchy Knights: Nicholas Mearns (11)

Preview:

This is the one we have all been waiting for. The winner of this mouth-watering first vs second clash will hold the fate of the NPL title in their hands heading into the final five games of the season.

The Strikers have had an interrupted lead-up to this fixture which included bye weeks, postponements and midweek catch-up games. That does not seem to have bothered Chris Gallo’s men, however, with the Strikers maintaining a perfect record of 10 wins from as many games dating back to round five. They have not conceded a goal since a 2-1 victory over the Clarence Zebras in round 11, and they defeated the Knights 4-0 just one month ago. The Strikers boast the league’s best defence and second-best offence, and since their winning streak commenced in round five, they have scored an average of 3.4 goals per game while conceding just 0.3. Typically speaking, form rarely plays a part in such a high-profile fixture but it is hard to ignore the numbers behind the 2021 Strikers.

The Knights will no doubt be aware of their opponent’s prowess, particularly when they were on the receiving end of the Strikers at their best just weeks ago. That 4-0 loss coincided with the worst performance of the season for the Knights with mistakes and poor marking at set-pieces inflating the scoreline. Recent fixtures have seen them bounce back in big way with Austin Yost, Nicholas Mearns and Nicholas Naden creating a very strong bond up front.  Jordan Muller has a tough job in the Knights’ midfield, particularly with Eli Luttmer moving into the defence. Eduardo Castaneda has increased his defensive workload and is doing well to fill the shoes left by Luttmer, but defending against the Strikers’ midfield is possibly the biggest job in the league.

Key Player: Lachlan Hart, Glenorchy Knights

The Strikers possess some big bodies, and they have capitalised from dead-ball situations time and time again this season. Two of the four goals scored by the Strikers in round 13 were from set-pieces, and to avoid the same fate in this crucial fixture Hart needs to command his area, be decisive, and give his side the confidence to know that he will claim anything in the air.

 

Launceston City vs Clarence Zebras

 

Date: Saturday August 7

Venue: Buckby Motors Park 2

Kick-off: 2:30 pm

2021 Record
Launceston City: 5-1-9 (fifth in NPL TAS)
Clarence Zebras: 4-3-8 (sixth in NPL TAS)

Top Scorers:
Launceston City: Yasin Mohammadi (5)
Clarence Zebras: Riley Dillon (11)

Preview:

Both Launceston City and the Clarence Zebras have yo-yoed in and out of fifth spot over recent weeks but the winner of this fixture will take a big step toward commencing a push for the top four.

A single point separates the two sides, and although Launceston City suffered defeat in their last outing, they remain one spot above the Clarence Zebras. City will be slightly deterred by the fact that Buckby Motors Park 1 – the field where they claimed four of their five victories – still seems to be unavailable due to the conditions. However, they put in a solid performance last week on Buckby Motors Park 2 against the Glenorchy Knights, going down by a single goal. They will be confident heading into the clash knowing they have already defeated the Zebras in round 13.

Riley Dillon has scored against every other team in the competition so far this season, but remains goalless against Launceston City. This is largely down to the fact that the two sides have only met once – a 2-0 Launceston City victory – which also makes City the only team to achieve a clean sheet against the Clarence Zebras up until now. That round 13 result was the only defeat suffered by the Zebras in their last five outings, however they claimed just eight of a possible 15 points across those fixtures. A victory in this weekend’s clash will see them leapfrog into fifth and set the wheels in motion for a strong finish to the season.

Key Player: Stefan Tantari, Launceston City

Tantari has scored two goals this season – both in the last four games – and the first came in this fixture back in round 13. He has become an increasingly key player for Launceston City over his three years in the NPL and perhaps never more so than now as he starts to find the net. History would suggest he knows how to do it against the Zebras.

 

Riverside Olympic vs South Hobart

 

Date: Saturday August 7

Venue: Windsor Park

Kick-off: 2:30 pm

2021 Record
Riverside Olympic: 0-3-12 (eighth in NPL TAS)
South Hobart: 8-4-3 (third in NPL TAS)

Top Scorers
Riverside Olympic: Fletcher Fulton (5)
South Hobart: Nicholas Morton (12)

Preview:

South Hobart are now nine points away from top spot following last week’s shock defeat to the Olympia Warriors, but they are presented with a good chance to bounce back against the winless Riverside Olympic.

Riverside have come close to securing their first win of the season on several occasions, and none more so than last week in a heartbreaking 2-2 draw with the Clarence Zebras. Despite conceding an equaliser with the last kick of the game, it was statistically their best defensive performance since round eight. Goals scored by Mitchell Jones and Ryan McCarragher saw them become the sixth and seventh different goal scorers for Riverside this season, and on the back of being denied a draw against Launceston City the week before thanks only to a late penalty, it has become clear that Riverside are improving week to week. They are yet to turn that improvement into points, but while the third placed South Hobart may not be the side they wanted to meet this week, playing at home does hand them a significant advantage.

South Hobart fell victim to the tenacious Olympia Warriors last week and will need to be careful of suffering a similar fate against the improving Riverside Olympic. Ken Morton is one of many coaches opting for three central defenders flanked by wing backs as the season prepares to reach its conclusion, however on that occasion it seemed to backfire. A coach of Morton’s calibre is likely to either fix the problem or revert back to a system that works, so expect a quick start as South Hobart take the game to Riverside this weekend. On a positive note, Kasper Hallam still found the net in last week’s loss to take his goal tally to double digits.

Key Player: Jayden Hey, South Hobart

Since his return from injury, Hey has been deployed at wingback with mixed results. The former Mitsubishi medallist is one of the key players in this South Hobart squad, but do not be surprised if he is moved back into midfield or centre back. If he is out wide again, he will no doubt cross paths with Riverside talisman Fletcher Fulton at some point.

 

Olympia Warriors vs Kingborough Lions

 

Date: Saturday August 7

Venue: Warrior Park

Kick-off: 4:30 pm

2021 Record
Olympia Warriors: 4-2-9 (seventh in NPL TAS)
Kingborough Lions: 6-3-6 (fourth in NPL TAS)

Top Scorers
Olympia Warriors: Kyle Vincent (10)
Kingborough Lions: Adam McKeown (11)

Preview

The Olympia Warriors earned a significant victory over South Hobart last weekend and will look to back it up with a win over the Kingborough Lions who have won just one of their last five games.

The Lions earned a victory at Warrior Park in round 13 but – as has often been the case – the Warriors created enough opportunities to get a result and failed to take them on the day. That changed for the Warriors last week. Captain Ben Tilley’s season-ending hamstring injury combined with Ben Curtis’ departure left Matthew Bomford with the armband, and he put in a captain’s performance in a 3-1 win. His move to fullback was a significant factor in his best performance for the Warriors since joining from Beachside at the start of this season. Combined with Kyle Vincent scoring a delightful free-kick and assisting twice beforehand, the Warriors’ key players are building a solid connection as the team appears to have hit their stride.

Kingborough Lions coach Jez Kenth has said on several occasions that his side has not been graced by Lady Luck this season, which is highlighted by the 28 players used so far in the NPL Tasmania. Hampered by injuries, the Lions are still hanging on in fourth but they will feel the pressure from Launceston City and Clarence Zebras nipping at their heels. Adam McKeown leads the way having found the net 11 times, but his supporting cast are yet to find their shooting boots with only 15 goals between the other eight goal scorers. Kobe Kemp played an advanced role against the Warriors in their last meeting which amplified his attacking threat by combining with Keenan Douce. Although results have not gone their way since, the Lions will be looking to recapture that momentum with another win.

Key Player: Ashton Pacey-Mayne, Olympia Warriors

Pacey-Mayne played a key role in this fixture in round 13. He anchors the midfield that is now without Ben Curtis and works tirelessly in attack and defence. Kobe Kemp gave the Warriors some trouble in their last meeting and if he is to be kept quiet, Pacey-Mayne will have to step up in a big way.