Anzac Day sees the defending champion Olympia FC Warriors welcome current league leaders Hobart JEEP Zebras to Warrior Park for what will be a blockbuster clash between the two traditional rivals.
South Hobart v Clarence United, Darcy St, 2.00PM, Saturday 23 April
South Hobart will look to bounce back from last week’s shock defeat to Devonport when they welcome Clarence United to Darcy St. They could not break down a rugged Strikers defence last week but coming up against a Clarence side that leaked five goals to Launceston City last week, it represents a good chance for them to rediscover their goal scoring form that was so rampant throughout the first month of the season.
With a settled line up for most the season, South Hobart are unlikely to overreact to a single loss and will probably continue with their familiar 4-3-3 formation with golden boot leader Alex Leszczynski leading the line, flanked by Hess and Hall. The midfield three of Morton, Kemp and Turner had an off day last week but should be able to dictate the game here. The back four did well dealing with the direct style of Devonport and can expect a similar approach from Clarence this week.
For Clarence coming off that heavy defeat against Launceston City at Mitsubishi Park last week, a trip to Darcy St to take on a fired up South Hobart side is probably the last thing they want. They started last week positively before a couple of mid game injuries railroaded them somewhat and from there it fell away, the side seemingly running out of legs as they conceded three goals in the final ten minutes of the game. The club is still on a learning curve as they get used to life in the top flight and the increased fitness of rival sides. At this level you need to be switched on for the full 90 minutes; a lesson they learned last week.
With the injury fallout from last week leaving Hedge out for three weeks and Hallard, Lush, Naden all under injury clouds, Clarence’s depth is set to be seriously tested. Against Olympia Jablonski employed a deep defensive line with Naden and Heath playing in defence, it was an effective way of stifling them and with Devonport’s defensive game plan causing South problems last week, we may well see Clarence employ a similar plan here. Grant Malcolm made his first start last week and will likely be required to lead the line up front in Hedge’s absence; he will need to be sharp if Clarence are to cause an upset.
Launceston City v Northern Rangers, Mitsubishi Park, 4.30PM, Saturday 23 April
The Northern Derby is set to play out for the first time in 2016 as Launceston City welcome fierce rivals Northern Rangers to Mitsubishi Park. As well as the vital three points on offer, the game represents the first leg of the Derby Cup that is played for between the two sides over the course of their three league meetings during the season.
Launceston City will enter this season’s edition as the favourites to reclaim the cup, currently sitting in fifth place on the table with two wins from their five games and having bounced back into form with a 5-0 thumping of Clarence last week. With star attacker Hyato Agusu making his return last weekend and Dom Rossi now recovered from injury, along with promising youngsters Nathan Bartlett and Isaac Degetto finding form, the attacking talent is looming as a major strength of this side and it should be conducive to producing goal scoring opportunities.
Rangers have just the solitary point so far and a victory over their fierce rivals would be the perfect way to get their season right back on track. They’ve endured a tough start to the season due largely to a horror run of injuries, but they showed promising signs last week in a 3-2 loss to defending champions Olympia and the worst appears to be behind them. But for a 91st minute goal they would have taken a point from the competition heavyweights and it was a much better performance from the side. Whilst it has been a tough season results wise, the form of brothers Pat and Nick Lanau-Atkinson has been a major positive, the two must be considered amongst the league’s very best players in their respective positions and they have both put in a number of fantastic individual displays in 2016.
Devonport v Kingborough, 2.00PM, Valley Road, Sunday 24 April
Devonport return home after a successful road trip, having beaten South Hobart at Darcy St last week to reaffirm that the Strikers will be right in the title hunt this season. They will be expected to continue that form when they host the Lions on Sunday.
The last two weeks has seen improved performances from a Lions side that is starting to get it together. They played a good style of game last week and moved the ball about the pitch nicely, though at times they struggled to create meaningful chances. Chris Downes scored a beauty of a goal and seems to be enjoying the creative license he has been granted and will be one that Daniel Syson will look to clamp down on as he did against the South Hobart midfielders last week. Alongside him in midfield Joel Stone is coming off his best game for the season and having done a lot with very little of the ball last week, he should relish the extra time in possession he will likely get this week.
In a game like this it doesn’t hurt to have a keeper of the calibre of Mark Grace standing between the sticks. The gloveman was outstanding against Zebras last week, and with Brayden Mann starting to look at his sharpest, he may well be called into action here again. Mann scored six goals the last time these sides met and though the Lions appear to be travelling a lot better now, the striker is in a rich vein of form and will fancy himself to once again find the score sheet.
Devonport are best suited when they can sit back and let the opposition come at them, at home against the Lions they will be required to be a bit more proactive. But whether the Lions have the pace to cause them the problems that Zebras did is debatable. Their best avenue to goal is the powerful Shane Cartwright who is set for a very physical battle with the Strikers strong back four.
Olympia v Hobart JEEP Zebras, Warrior Park, 5.00PM, Monday 25 April
It’s a rivalry that Hobart Zebras have had the better of in recent times, winning 5 of the last 6 league meetings between the pair.
Hobart Zebras have started the season in perfect fashion, winning all five of their games to sit three points clear atop the table and there is plenty of early title talk surrounding the club. The feeling is that this is the strongest squad Zebras have had assembled in many years. The squad has some genuine depth in quality to it and there are growing expectations for the club to break their silverware drought that extends back to 2007.
Olympia meanwhile are in fourth place after a late Nick Mearns goal to secure his hat-trick guided them to a narrow win on the road at Northern Rangers last week. Mearns had a quiet start to the season but has hit his straps in the last few weeks and his hat-trick was of the highest quality. He scored with two lovely strikes before nodding home the game winner in the 91st minute. With the departures of Lawrence Shuruma and Borbor Sam earlier this week following loss of Jacob Collard and Pasquale Gioffre to Melbourne City and Heidelberg United the week prior the pressure will be on the experienced members of the 2015 title winning side such as Mearns to help carry the side.
It will also be up to the club’s young players such as Aidan Farquhar, Joel Sammut and Thomas Bellini to step up and fill the void left by these departures. They get their first chance to show they can do just that in front of what is set to be a packed Warrior Park on Anzac Day.