South Hobart have swept all before them so far this season and will be heavy favourites to continue that run when they host an injury depleted Northern Rangers outfit at Darcy St on Saturday.
South Hobart v Northern Rangers, Saturday 2 April, 2.00PM Darcy St
South may well be carrying a few sore bodies, having played two games in the space of three days due to Lakoseljac Cup commitments earlier this week. That could present Ken Morton with a chance to rotate his squad and give youngsters like Alex Walter, Ryan Cook or Adam Wilkes a chance to shine. It is unlikely he will rotate too heavily however as he has put his sides early success largely down to putting out a balanced side on the park.
“We have started the season well and the squad is settled. Many individuals have started the season with some exciting performances but overall we have had a well- balanced squad and the team is producing effective team football to win games. We will just look to show improvement week by week.”
There is no doubt they are a far more balanced line up than they were last season, with the emergence of Freddy Hess helping provide a dual threat down the flanks along with Darcy Hall either side of the red hot Albert Lesczynski. The midfield trio of Turner, Kemp and Morton strikes a perfect balance between attack and defence and has seen them dominate Olympia and Kingborough in the opening two rounds.
Northern Rangers meanwhile have been decimated by injuries. For a club that was already undermanned after a mass exodus of players following last season, it’s been a tough pill to swallow, pushing a shallow squad’s depths to its limits.
Michael Monticcio and Dan Cristy are the latest to be added to the long term injury list, the duo facing months on the sidelines which leaves coach Dane Hudson with a very short handed squad to travel down the highway with.
They say crisis creates opportunity however and with a number of key movers absent, Nick Lanau Atkinson looks to be the man who will stand up in their stead. He was outstanding against Clarence, capping a strong performance with a sublime free kick from 25 yards out and is now the man who will have to shoulder the majority of the attacking load for Rangers.
Devonport v Launceston City, Saturday April 2, Valley Road, 2.00PM
If the Devonport Strikers were ever truly under the radar then they certainly aren’t anymore after they marched down to Warrior Park and defeated the champions 2-1 on their home turf.
It was a dogged display, having set out their stall to play a direct, counter attacking game, it was a big blow to fall behind 1-0 so early on but it didn’t change a thing in regards to their approach. They remained resilient at the back, looking to move the ball quickly to the front and when Olympia over committed men forward, they consistently managed to sneak in behind their lines, despite their minimal possession.
It’s an approach that will suit them well against the big sides of the league but against Clarence in round 1 it was blunted somewhat and Launceston City may not play as an attacking style here, so Peter Savill may have to change his tactics.
They will clash with a Launceston City side who also appear to be among the competitions big improvers in 2016.
They have started the season with a pair of strong showings, comfortably accounting for Kingborough before narrowly losing out 2-1 to Hobart Zebras in a spirited showing when they went down to 10 men following David Smith’s dismissal.
Clarence United v Hobart Zebras, Saturday 2 April, 4.30PM, Wentworth Park
Competition newcomers Clarence registered their first victory over Northern Rangers last week but face a tough task trying to make it back to back wins when they play host to an undefeated Hobart Zebras outfit.
It’s an exciting occasion for Clarence as top flight football makes a welcome return to Wentworth Park, a ground that opposition sides have historically not enjoyed travelling to. If Clarence are to cause an upset then they will be hoping a strong vocal home crowd, and a strong breeze coming off the water, can help provide them with an added advantage.
The game will also carry extra significance as it is the Luke Cripps memorial shield game, played in memoriam of the former Clarence and Zebras player who died tragically in 2012.
After looking defensively solid against Devonport, Clarence opened the game up against Northern Rangers and showed there is more to this side than a dour, workmanlike defence.
Kingborough Lions v Olympia, Sunday 3 April, 2.00pm, Lightwood Park
When the roster came out, few would have predicted that this round three match would see two winless teams desperate for three points coming up against each other, yet that is the exact scenario facing both the Kingborough Lions and Olympia FC Warriors as they head to Lightwood Park on Sunday afternoon. The big news set to shape this contest dropped late Thursday night, with Kingborough coach Colin Robbins resigning and taking Team manager Mike Davies & Assistant coach Gerry Lampasona with him. It leaves Head Goalkeeping Coach Adam ‘Bear’ Coleman, Shane Cartwright, David Cooper & Chris Barrell as the men who will the reigns for Sundays match.
The resignation was triggered by the fact the Lions have been well below expectations so far, losing comfortably to Launceston City and South Hobart before being torn apart by Devonport in the Cup on Monday.Whilst a win is going to be tough to come by here, they simply cannot afford another heavy loss and will need to show improvements under the new, albeit temporary coaching arrangement. With Olympia stumbling out of the gates, the Lions may well feel that despite their own problems, this as vulnerable as they are likely to look all season.
CLICK HERE for a full preview of all the weekend's matches.