Slice of Cheese

NPL Weekend Washup: Round 2

Knights Draw First Blood

In the first big clash of title favourites for the season, it’s the Glenorchy Knights who have drawn first blood, as they scrapped their way to a determined 1-0 win over the Devonport Strikers at Valley Road. Any fears surrounding the Knights potential drop off in defence following the departures of Hart, Hill and Harrison have been quickly shot down, as they registered a clean sheet to ensure they returned South sitting in the position that they occupied after 21 Rounds last season. It makes it 7 consecutive clean sheets in the NPL TAS dating back to last season, a new league record, and if defence wins championships, then coach James Sherman has this bunch firmly on the right track for a potential title defence. 

Replacing Lachie Hart was not going to be a straightforward assignment, but in Reef Murfett it seems Knights once again have a very safe pair of hands between the sticks. He put in an accomplished display here, showing a calm assuredness under the high ball all afternoon and was sharp right from the outset, as he had to be when he was called into action in the opening 90 seconds to make a fine leg save to deny Max Reissig the game’s opening goal.

Roberto Fernandez Garrido fired a good chance over the top on 15 minutes but beyond that, chances were few and far between for most of the first half, as the game began in a similarly cagey manner to several of their more recent head-to-head clashes and saw both defences largely in control of proceedings.

From their first real moment of threat in attack, the Knights took the lead somewhat against the run of play in the 23rdminute. Having had a shot deflected behind to earn a corner initially, the ball again found its way to Austin Yost and this time his shot back into the area was deflected home by Lucas Dzalakowski. It would prove the lone goal of the match and ultimately enough to secure the 3 points for Knights.

Devonport struggled to produce chances of quality despite seeing more of the ball in the first half but came close to levelling early in the second half when Aaron Kidmas fired straight at Murfett.

Brody Denehey came off the bench and thought he had his side back on terms in the 65th minute only to be denied by the offside flag as Knights continued to hold out at the back, marshalled outstandingly by captain Eli Luttmer who was an absolute rock in defence.

The chances came a little more freely later in the game as Devonport gave an almighty push to take something out of the game, with Barton and Fernandez Garrido coming close but they couldn’t find the back of the net. 

A 94th minute save from Murfett to keep out a well hit Stone free-kick then sealed the deal and ensured that Glenorchy Knights landed the first major blow in the 2022 title bout. There are plenty of twists and turns to go in the season to be sure, but despite the season being in its infancy, we might look back on this as an enormous three points for Knights. 

Mies Makes His Mark

One of the biggest signings of the NPL Tasmania off-season was the Kingborough Lions landing striker Noah Mies and he certainly made his presence felt here, showing just why his signature was so coveted by a host of clubs, producing a powerful display leading the line for the Lions. 

He didn’t take long to have a big impact on proceedings, setting up Declan Taylor for the games opening goal just 3 minutes into the match.

On 26 minutes he added one of his own when he timed his run nicely and dispatched the finish into the bottom corner, leaving Daniel Nash with no chance in the Riverside net. Nash was frequently called into action throughout the 90 and made some big-time stops, but there was only so much he could do to stem the tide.  

The lions had the game all but wrapped up inside of 30 minutes, when they struck again soon after, as experienced striker Adam McKeown thumped home an emphatic finish from close range. 

James Hall drew a good save from Roam Gillam in the lead up to halftime, but it was one of few dangerous moments the home side produced as they spent large periods of the game firmly on the defensive. 

If not for Nash the Lions would’ve extended their lead further in the second half, the Roos keeper making a classy double save early in the half before pulling off a highlight-reel diving stop to deny Mies his second just after the hour mark.

There was no denying Mies on 78 minutes however as he turned home his second and the Lions fourth to round out the scoring and secure a much-needed bounce-back win for the Lions. After a disappointing round 1 showing, this should get them back on track and allow them to build into the season.

For Riverside, it’s been a tough start to the year, but with a couple of late withdrawals, they were always up against it in this one. With the all-important Launceston Derby looming next weekend Alex Gaetani will be looking for an immediate response from his chargers to kick start their campaign. 

Zebras Maintain Derby Perfection

The Clarence Zebras maintained their supremacy in the Eastern Shore Derby, making it six wins from six Derby’s since the new rivalry was forged. After years of dominating Clarence United, the script has been completely flipped since the merger and despite the Warriors putting in a better showing than they did against South Hobart in Round 1, there is no doubt the Zebras deserved this victory. The visitors weren’t fully convincing in the first 45 minutes and had some hairy moments at the back, but in the second 45, they put the pedal to the metal and raced away to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

It wasn’t through a lack of scoring opportunities that the game went into the halftime interval locked at 0-0. Indeed, both teams had multiple good looks at the goal during the first 45 but squandered the chances that presented themselves. The Zebras certainly created more openings, but you got the sense that there was enough about the Warriors to be able to get a result if the Zebras continued their profligacy.

But the Zebras got the jump on them early in the second half, with a quickly taken free-kick catching the Warriors defence out and allowing Matthew Pace in behind to open the scoring in the 49th minutes. Pace would turn provider for Joshua Matthie on 73 minutes who drove one past Stalker after the Warriors failed to clear their lines properly.

The ever-reliable Riley Dillon completed the scoring when he squeezed one through Stalker that just crossed the line in the 85th minute to make certain of the victory and give the Zebras their first 3 points of the season.