Launceston City vs Riverside Olympic
Date: Friday July 23
Venue: Buckby Motors Park 1
Kick-off: 7:30 PM
Launceston City: 4-1-8 (sixth in NPL TAS)
Riverside Olympic: 0-2-11 (eighth in NPL TAS)
Launceston City: Yasin Mohammadi (5)
Riverside Olympic: Fletcher Fulton (5)
Launceston City’s three game win streak came to an ugly end last week; however, they will fancy themselves to get the wheels rolling again having easily accounted for Riverside as recently as round 12.
It has been tough to find positives from Riverside’s performances of late, and this trend culminated in an 8-0 thumping at the hands of Devonport Strikers on Tuesday night. The first 20 minutes were lively for the home side, but it went downhill fast when Joel Stone scored the opener. They have the look of a team low on confidence after conceding 14 goals since they last scored one of their own, and have a tendency to concede free-kicks in dangerous positions which is a worry up against the dead ball ability of Yasin Mohammadi. Regardless, it is about pride at this stage for the winless Riverside, and if they do not react positively this week then that first victory may continue to elude them.
Launceston City looked like causing an upset against South Hobart until a 10-minute period saw them 3-1 down with no way back. And adding to their troubles was the injury sustained by Lachlan Clark that saw the City goalkeeper substituted in the second half. Looking ahead however, Riverside do not possess the attacking threat that South Hobart does, and it seems as though Clark is set to avoid a lengthy spell on the sideline, possibly returning as early as this week. This fixture comes at a good time for Launceston City who will look to use a healthy win over Riverside as a confidence boost ahead of winnable fixtures against Clarence Zebras and Olympia Warriors in the weeks to come.
Key Player: Yasin Mohammadi, Launceston City
It seems like low hanging fruit – choosing the leading goal scorer from the team favoured to win – however the last meeting between the two was only weeks ago, and Mohammadi put in his best performance to date. If Riverside have learned anything from that defeat, it is that they must do something to counter Mohammadi’s threat.
Devonport Strikers vs Olympia Warriors
Date: Saturday July 24
Venue: Valley Road
Kick-off: 2:15 PM
Devonport Strikers: 11-1-2 (first in NPL TAS)
Olympia Warriors: 3-2-8 (seventh in NPL TAS)
Devonport Strikers: Brody Denehey (15)
Olympia Warriors: Kyle Vincent (9)
Devonport Strikers’ one game advantage was gone between Saturday’s postponement and Tuesday’s resounding victory in the rescheduled clash with Riverside Olympic. For that brief moment, it became clear how tight the NPL Tasmania title race really is, and how important it will be for the Strikers to avoid any slip ups if they wish to see out the season on top.
Enter the Olympia Warriors. Alongside 11 wins and two losses, the Strikers have a single draw to their name so far this season, and it came in this fixture back in round 5 when the courageous young Warriors earned a point in The Portress. The Warriors have shown good patches in recent weeks that – if sustained over 90 minutes – could see them capable of a similar result. In fact, barely a month has passed since they managed to go goal for goal with the league’s best attack in a 2-2 draw with Glenorchy Knights. Kyle Vinent scored again on his return to the starting line-up last week, Jake Hayers continues to grow in confidence, and several fringe players have stepped up in a big way recently. Though it may be a lot to ask for such a young squad, if they can put recent results behind them there may be a point or three up for grabs.
However, the Strikers will surely have something to say about that. The most in-form team in the NPL Tasmania are steamrolling all who stand before them including an 8-0 demolition in their last outing. Joel Stone scored three goals and assisted twice in a game that showed why he is the reigning Mitsubishi medallist and with the FFA Cup round of 32 just around the corner, the Warriors may be facing the best version of the Devonport Strikers we have seen this year.
Key Player: Joel Stone, Devonport Strikers
He returned to his best form on Tuesday night and ran the show against Riverside. Surrounded by the likes of Brodie Denehey and Eddie and Charles Bidwell, Stone has the freedom to play his own game and if he is on song once again, he will be too much for the Warriors’ midfield to handle.
Clarence Zebras vs Kingborough Lions
Date: Saturday July 24
Venue: Wentworth Park
Kick-off: 2:15 PM
Clarence Zebras: 4-1-8 (fifth in NPL TAS)
Kingborough Lions: 6-2-6 (fourth in NPL TAS)
Clarence Zebras: Riley Dillon (11)
Kingborough Lions: Adam McKeown (10)
Someone uninitiated with the league table would be forgiven for thinking the Zebras were comfortably ahead of the Lions based on the way these two teams performed last week.
The young Zebras were having fun – showing off their skill and creativity, but also a discipline that was missing in earlier fixtures. Though the season got off to a rocky start, Franco Previdi has patiently found a formula that works and the memories (or rather traumatic flashbacks) of the 9-2 defeat to the Glenorchy Knights seems like a lifetime ago. However, the Kingborough Lions pose a different threat than the Warriors. The experience of Kobe Kemp, Adam McKeown and Andy Taylor will try to unsettle the Zebras before they can find their rhythm and the Zebras will have a lot riding on the fitness of Simon Stankovich who departed after 30 minutes last week. Without him, the aerial ability of the Lions becomes a big factor.
Results have been up and down for the Lions lately, with a 4-1 loss to the Knights last week reminding them that they cannot afford to have an off week in a competition this fierce. One positive from that outing was Adam McKeown finding the net once again, and he will be a big addition to the team that lost 1-0 to the Zebras just three weeks ago. Although the Zebras faced a back three in last week’s clash, the Lions have much more experience utilising wing backs to cause problems for opposition defences. The Lions’ unique formation will be a huge asset in a clash against a Zebras team that can be a bit vulnerable in wide positions.
Key Player: James Ackerley, Clarence Zebras
Ackerley has cemented his place on the wing in 2021, and has built a good rapport with Dillon and Pace in the front three. While no one is doubting his attacking contributions, he’s a bit less inclined to help out in defence than Pace on the other side, and up against the likes of Keenan Douce, Phil Kantzos or Jackson Khasif at wing-back, he’ll have to do a lot of two way running.
Glenorchy Knights vs South Hobart
Date: Saturday July 24
Kick-off: 3:00 PM
South Hobart: 8-4-1 (third in NPL TAS)
Glenorchy Knights: 9-3-1 (second in NPL TAS)
Glenorchy Knights Nicholas Mearns (10)
South Hobart: Nicholas Morton (12)
The winner of this second-vs-third clash will be hot on the heels of the Devonport Strikers heading into crunch time for the NPL Tasmania title race, while the loser may see their title challenge come crashing down.
The two sides met three weeks ago in a 1-1 draw, and for the sake of the title race, any neutrals watching this game will be dreading a repeat result. The Glenorchy Knights face Devonport Strikers in the next round, so they may have added motivation in this week’s clash with the chance to close the gap to one point with a game in hand a fortnight from now. For South Hobart however, it is one week at a time. Their current aim is to continue winning, and with six points and eight goals in their last two games, Ken Morton’s men are in a nice patch of form with a good chance to jump into second place. Kasper Hallam was the hero last week, finding the equaliser on his way to a hat-trick after his side trailed for almost 45 minutes, and Nick Morton continued to find the net after scoring his 12th of the season in spectacular fashion. It comes at a good time too, with the Knights’ defence conceding just a little over a goal per game so far this season.
The Knights are in the middle of harsh run of fixtures that will see them go five games without playing an opposition outside the top four. A 4-1 win over the Kingborough Lions last week was exactly what the Knights needed heading into the tail end of that run, and six points in the next two weeks would see them in the driving seat for the title race. South Hobart possess plenty of attacking threats, however even without captain Tyler Harrison for majority of the game, it took until deep into stoppage time for the Knights to concede in their 1-1 draw just weeks ago. With Harrison fighting fit once again, they will no doubt be looking to avenge the dropped points.
Key Player: Lachlan Semmler, South Hobart
The young fullback delivered a sublime cross to allow Kasper Hallam to equalise last week, and has earned his spot in the conversation for the best one-on-one defender in the league despite his limited experience at NPL level. Morton opted to leave him out last time against the Knights, but based on recent form he would be unlucky to miss out again which means at some point, he will likely line up against Austin Yost who has been scoring and creating for fun.
Image: Solstice Digital