Slice of Cheese

PS4 NPL TAS: Round 10 Preview

Solstice Photography

An NPL TAS blockbuster is on the cards on Saturday afternoon at Darcy Street as powerhouses South Hobart and Olympia prepare to meet for the second time this year. The two teams met back in the season opener in early March when South Hobart exploded out of the blocks to claim a commanding 3-0 win and with a tight title race developing this game looms as a pivotal contest in shaping the 2017 season. That opening round defeat was one of the main reasons the Warriors President George Mamacas offered for removing then coach Ian Shaw and replacing him with Kenny Weston earlier this month. Weston has made a strong start to his tenure at Olympia, chalking up 2 league wins from 2, claiming win’s over Clarence and Rangers before seeing his side progress through to the Lakoseljac Cup final with a narrow 2-0 win over the Hobart Zebras on Sunday.

Attention now swings back to the league where just one point separates the Warriors from South Hobart on the table after 9 Rounds of the NPL Tasmania season. The Warriors sit on top of the table, ahead of Devonport on goal difference with 22 points apiece and South Hobart in third position on 21 points. With such fine margins, the three points on offer in this game looms as particularly significant. South Hobart will be looking to continue the dominance they have enjoyed over Olympia in recent times. In addition to their Round 1 victory this year, they defeated Olympia all four times they met in 2016 and the last time Olympia claimed a win in the fixture was Round 3 in the 2015 season, with South unbeaten in the last 7 games between the sides.

As if the fixture needed anymore spice, Weston confirmed at a Friday morning media conference that he had been in contact with players from South Hobart in an attempt to lure them across to Warrior Park. No players were named but Weston confirmed he’d had contact with players from other clubs including South Hobart as he looks to add depth to his squad. With the transfer deadline between local clubs now passing on Thursday night there is no chance of the moves transpiring in 2017 but it should add plenty to an already fierce rivalry between the two sides. South Hobart Coach Ken Morton played down any concerns admitting it was just part of the game but said he had talked with the players who had committed their futures to South Hobart and that it was sure to provide the fixture with some ‘extra spice’.

The Round will begin the night prior however with the Hobart Zebras hosting the Kingborough Lions at KGV on the Friday night. It’s a game that sees two sides clashing under new management, with our first look at the Zebras under Tommy Fotak and the Lions under Mark Broadbent. That is where the majority of the intrigue around this fixture looms and it will be interesting to see if anything major has changed for both sides stylistically. Fotak suggested upon taking the job that his preferred style is one based more around possession than the direct style that has been employed for the majority of the season under Peter Savill. The Lions meanwhile had gone from one extreme to the other under Markaj from the riverboat gambler approach of the opening weeks to the more, Tony Pulis style of recent weeks. How both teams approach this will be fascinating but given how comfortably the Zebras dealt with them in their 6-0 win at the Den earlier this year, they will enter as comfortable favourites.

The other game kicking off at 2:00pm on the Saturday is up at Valley Road as the Devonport Strikers entertain Launceston City. With South Hobart and Olympia clashing, this could potentially be a chance for the defending champions to reclaim top spot on the table should that result be anything other than a Warriors victory. Given the rich vein of form they are in they will be expected to do just that having won their past five games and outscored their opponents 15-1 over the past three weeks. The continuity in the starting line up is certainly helping them and they are going from strength to strength. After a slightly sluggish start to the season, Michael Holden is now one of, if not the form player of the league right now and along with Mann and Fischer they represent a nightmare match up for defenders. City enter the contest once more in the all to familiar position of having to pick themselves up off the canvas. A 5-0 loss to Zebras and 6-0 thumping to Knights in the Lakoseljac Cup Semi Final was not what they were looking for after they seemed to have turned a corner with consecutive wins over South Hobart and Clarence. The past 2 weeks have been tough to swallow and with their cup dreams now extinguished they must turn their attention to climbing off the floor of the league table though it will be tough to take anything away from the Portress.

On the Sunday Clarence host Northern Rangers to round out the week 10 fixtures at Wentworth Park. The two sides last met back in the opening round when we had the rarity of a 0-0 draw, which was just the fourth such instance in the league’s history. It was an entertaining affair despite the lack of goal scoring, with both sides missing chances to win, but taking enough positives out of the match to indicate they could both enjoy improved league campaigns in 2017. Both sides have had mixed bags of fortune since then and have been very up and down in how they have performed, you never know which version of these two sides will show up, which makes them hard to forecast. Given how wide the gap between the top four and bottom four has become this season, these games represent massive occasions for the bottom four sides as it is their most realistic shot at taking points. Ultimately it will be these games that largely define their seasons as opposed to how they perform against the top four and as such both will need to be at their best if they are to take advantage of the points on offer and move into outright fifth on the table.

FFT Media and Communications Coordinator, Everton tragic, long form journalism devotee, Andrea Pirlo enthusiast and admirer of the parked bus.