It's Friday night football to kick the round off as Hobart Jeep Zebras host Clarence United at KGV.
Hobart JEEP Zebras v Clarence, Friday 27 May, KGV, 8.00PM
Both sides are coming off successful road trips up north, with Clarence taking their second victory of the season with a commanding 4-0 win over Northern Rangers, whilst Zebras dug deep to overcome Launceston City 2-1.
The last time these two sides met was back in round 3. Playing for the Luke Cripps shield, Clarence fought doggedly to reach half time at 0-0 before the Zebras quality shone through and they ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. Both sides will line up very differently in this one, with a number of personnel changes having taken place since that game 2 months ago.
The biggest of those changes is the presence of Scotsman Aaron Cairns in the Zebras line up. The prodigiously talented attacking midfielder is set to make his long awaited return against the club that he initially played for in Clarence United. Tyler Harrison and Michael Maiorano should also be fit to return to the line-up so it should be a very strong Zebras starting XI that takes the field.
Clarence will be missing scorer of last week’s remarkable goal in Paul Bremner and will need to find his replacement to lead the line. Adam Hedge has filled that role for most of the season but after a starring display in the heart of defence last week, Jablonski may be hesitant to make that change. In midfield the pairing of Aldridge and Naden looks to have real promise, offering a calmness on the ball that was lacking early in the season, whilst Kyungmin Choi appears to have settled nicely, playing as an inverted winger on the left.
On paper Clarence have gotten stronger and they will hope that last week is a sign that their season will start to trend upwards after a difficult month. Zebras are an entirely different proposition however and will go into the game as comfortable favourites, this will be a good test to see if Clarence have improved, whilst for Zebras it is a game that they should be expecting to win.
Olympia v Kingborough, Saturday 28 May, Warrior Park, 3.00PM
The Warriors entertain the Lions at Warrior Park as they look to bounce back from a couple of heavy defeats against the competition heavyweights over the past two weeks. The Lions are looking for their first points under new coach Ian Shaw, despite showing some encouraging signs; they have lost both games to begin his tenure.
Last time they met, the Warriors produced their best 45 minutes of the season as they crushed the Lions, scoring eight times in the second half as they powered to a 9-0 win. There are two very different teams on the park now though with Olympia having lost a number of their big early season signings, whilst conversely the Lions have strengthened their side and it should be conducive to a closer game this time.
New signing Sam Conway looks set to be played in an attacking role and his pace has the ability to trouble a Warriors back four that has been exposed by fast wing play this season. They may opt to have the returning Zak Drake follow him to counter this. The game will likely be won in midfield which is the strength of both sides. How the enforcer Cartwright goes trying to negate the likes of Hoy and Mearns, who can pick teams apart if given too much time on the ball, will likely go a long way to determining the outcome of this game.
Launceston City v Devonport, Saturday 28 May, Mitsubishi Park, 4:30PM
Launceston City welcome another title contender to Mitsubishi Park as they conclude a three week homestead by hosting the Devonport Strikers. After pushing Hobart Zebras all the way in a tight 2-1 loss last week, they will hope to go one better and take points from the league leaders, who continued their winning ways with a convincing 5-2 win over the defending champions Olympia.
When the pair met back in round 3 at Valley Road, it was the Brayden Mann show, the striker hitting a hat-trick on route to a comfortable 5-1 win and keeping him in check will be crucial if Launceston are going to improve to get anything out of this game.
Northern Rangers v South Hobart, Saturday 28 May, NTCA, 4:30PM
Northern Rangers will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 4-0 loss to Clarence, but it won’t get any easier for them as they host South Hobart who comfortably accounted for Kingborough 3-0, to keep up the pressure on their fellow title contenders.
Last time these sides played it was a dark day for Rangers as South Hobart inflicted the heaviest defeat of the season upon them, winning 12-0. With Rangers coach Dane Hudson resigning midweek; they’re going to need to do some major regrouping to avoid another big loss. The departure of Hudson, citing personal reasons, came as a surprise, and it adds to the tough situation the club finds itself in, already sitting at the bottom of the table.
In team news, Jorge Palacio will continue to miss which is a major blow for the Rangers rear guard. Without him last week the defence struggled to deal with Clarence’s attacking midfielders crashing the box, which is something that South Hobart do better than anyone. They will need their midfield to get back and offer more support to the back four this week if they are to keep the red hot South Hobart attack at bay.
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