Victory League Preview Round 14

In the match of the round, fourth placed Northern Rangers hit the road to face third placed Olympia under lights at Warrior Park.

Tilford Zebras vs Glenorchy Knights – 8:00PM/Friday 11 July (KGV Football Park)

Last time they met: Glenorchy Knights 0 defeated by Tilford Zebras 4 (Jono Ladic 52’, Alex Leszczynski 60’ PENALTY, 90’+3, Andrew Clark 90’+3) (2014 Victory League – Round 7)

Tilford Zebras FORM: W-W-W

Glenorchy Knights FORM: D-L-W

Tilford Zebras and Glenorchy Knights kick off the round under lights at their shared home ground KGV Football Park.

Tilford Zebras enter the match in red-hot form off the back of five straight Victory League wins. Despite entering as the form team of the competition, it could be a danger game for the Zebras with the Knights claiming a point in the same meeting last season to kill of their title tilt. 

“I expect a tough game against well organised opposition, we have to remain disciplined and play to the best of our abilities,” said Zebras Coach Jed Donoghue.  

“Glenorchy are well coached and have plenty of skill and leadership at the back and in the middle of the park, and lots of pace out wide, so they are always a handful,” added Donoghue.

“We have to play to the best of our abilities, and be focused and disciplined in order to put pressure on the ladder leaders.  

“We have to take our chances in front of goal, and pressure the opposition when they have the ball.

“Kurt Engels comes back into the squad and at this stage no other changes.”

Zebras enter off the back of a 3-0 win at Lightwood Park over the Lions.

“A good contest against Kingborough last weekend.  They are a big, strong side and they will trouble all the teams in the Victory League.”

Last week was a real break out game for young Zebras striker Ethan Engels, who picked apart the Lions defence en route to his Victory League hat-trick. Glenorchy Coach Chris Hey believes the emergence of Engels makes the Zebras an even more fearsome proposition to tackle.

“Zebras are having a purple patch and it is good to see young Ethan Engels being provided an opportunity and rewarding his coach by getting on the score sheet regularly,” said Hey. 

“Ethan, along with the physical presence of Alex Leszczynski and Adam McKeown on their day are a handful for any team,” added Hey. 

Despite those attacking weapons at Donoghue’s disposal, Hey believes Zebras recent success stems from defensive solidarity, conceding the least goals of any team this season. 

“The big improvement with Zebras is in their defensive structure, having the second best in the league to date, so this will be a difficult task for us, but Vincent Kamano and Aaron Wilson both showed maturity and composure when they came off the bench last week, both scoring crucial goals.”

Knights will also come in with winning form, beating Launceston City last week to go six points clear of the floor of the table.

“Last week’s result has provided us with a little breathing space but we now have to focus on closing the gap with Kingborough and Devonport for the remainder of the season’s games,” said Hey.

“We go into this game with a number of key players missing from our regular line up, with injuries to Sam Johnson, Tyler Harrison and Seung Yong Jin, while Nick Di Falco is unavailable.

“We have included Phin Aldridge and Sean Robb into our Victory League squad, both players will play Victory Development League and we will see what options we have at our disposal on game day.

“Noah Thorne will make his starting debut at full back for us and he is a promising young player for the future of the Knights.”

Devonport City vs Kingborough Lions – 3:00PM/Saturday 12 July (Valley Road)

Last time they met: Kingborough Lions 1 (Lewis Verdouw 26’) defeated Devonport City 0 (2014 Victory League – Round 7)

Devonport City FORM: D-L-L

Kingborough Lions FORM: L-L-L

The Strikers return home to their fortress Valley Road and host Kingborough Lions.

Devonport’s Victory Cup hopes took a dive with a loss to Northern Rangers last week, pushing Owen into reducing the focus on ladder position and more on blooding youth and preparing the next generation of Victory League stars.

“After last week's loss, playing finals is highly unlikely,” said Devonport Coach Nick Owen.

“This will take the pressure off a bit and allow us to try a few new faces and really focus more on our style of play,” said Owen. 

“This might not make everyone at the club happy but the difference between finishing 5th, 6th or 7th is nothing really and we are probably clear of the wooden spoon. 

“That is not to say that the next 8 games aren't important, it is extremely important to see who is up to the challenge and who is willing to improve.”

In just his second match as Kingborough Lions Victory League Coach, Colin Robbins has to lead the Lions on the League’s toughest road trip.

Tough road trip to Valley Road, Devonport will not be an easy game for the team,” said Robbins.

“The Strikers have won 4 times at home this season with only the two losses, the recent South Hobart Round 12 game and Round two against Olympia. Strikers will also be looking to bounce back after two consecutive losses and will be hungry for the win.

“Completing an inspection of Valley Road last Sunday, we found the venue extremely heavy and further wet weather is expected during the week will only compound the problem. 

“We will continue to develop our new defensive structures with Tom Young returning. The loss of Jack Turner will be a loss but this will provide an opportunity to test the depth of the squad.

“Training this week has concentrated on transitioning and attacking, two areas that exposed us against the Zebras, we had enough entries into the attacking third but lacked the finishing skill. 

“The team continues to take small positive steps with growing confidence, so we believe we will provide the Strikers with a tough, hard fought game. 

“Strikers are a strong team and like to play football, they don’t concede too many goals which indicates, that they have a strong defence. Some big wins this year also, they are a team that can create goal-scoring opportunities and finish on goal.

“Holden is a very good young player but we will also need to be mindful of their other avenues to goal. Defending Strikers set piece plays will be a key for our team, they have some good tall timber amongst their team and this will be a threat.

“It will be a tough assignment heading to Valley Road but coming away with the three points will provide the team with further confidence in upcoming games. 

“The side that tires the earliest on the heavy track may lead to the final outcome of the game.”

Kingborough have fallen to three straight losses but Robbins drew some positives from last week’s effort in just his first game at the helm.

“The early loss of our right fullback Nate Taylor to a hamstring strain upset our newly formed defensive unit. During the first half we looked like a side without confidence but the improved organisation kept us in the game. 

“Particularly pleased with the second half, the team grew in confidence as the game progressed and they maintained possession and controlled the last 25 minutes of the game, which was very positive. After the previous results and only two training sessions, a step in the right direction for the team.

We have taken a lot of positives from the Zebras game and must look to continuing the stepping stones that will improve the team’s performance for the remainder of the season and build towards next season. 

“We are looking to continue the development of our new defensive unit and it’s ability to maintain shape and complete the team and player tasks. We must also strive to enter the attacking third regularly to test the opposition then display improvement with our finishing skills. Our fitness levels are very good which should see us finish the game strongly as we did last week against the Zebras.”

The assignment is tougher than usual for the Lions, without some key cogs and the confirmation that Billy Gasparinatos will not return to the club.

Jack Turner (groin strain) and Nate Taylor (hamstring strain) are both out of the squad this week after picking up injuries during last weeks game. 

“Billy Gasparinatos has decided to concentrate on his work commitments for the remainder of the season, so drops out of the 20 man KLUFC VL squad.

“Defender Tom Young returns along with Nick Vialle and young defender Daniel Kingsbury has been added to the squad.

“Young goalkeeper Roan Gillam returns to the squad from a quad strain after training strongly this week.”

Launceston City vs South Hobart – 4:30PM/Saturday 12 July (Mitsubishi Park 1)

Last time they met: South Hobart 6 (Darcy Hall 23’, 87’, Andy Brennan 30’, 39’, 55’, Connor Kass 56’ PEN) defeated Launceston City 2 (Mark Cristy 1’, Gukhyeon Kim 71’) (2014 Victory League – Round 7)

Launceston City FORM: L-L-L

South Hobart FORM: W-W-W

Launceston City faces a tall task this week, as the bottom side faces the league leaders South Hobart at Mitsubishi Park.

City enter the uphill battle desperate for points up against a strengthened outfit from South Hobart, after Ken Morton bolstered his squad this week with a boom Scottish recruit in defensive utility, Scott Lamont.

“South Hobart are a very good side and deservedly sit on top of the ladder,” said City Coach Kurt Reynolds.

Despite it being a big ask for the bottom placed side, City Coach Kurt Reynolds is optimistic heading into the encounter.

“In saying that we are at home and in a position to put the strongest squad in weeks on the park. 

“I am not satisfied that we have not picked up further points in Round two and Saturday is our last opportunity to do so.

“South Hobart are well organised and difficult to break down. It will be interesting to see if new signing Lamont starts? Their midfield is strong and the likes of Brennan, Mann and Hamlett are a handful up-front so we must pay South lots of respect.

“As always we enter this match with endeavours to create an positive outcome. Again, our objective was to collect more points in Round two than we have currently achieved and Saturday is another opportunity.”

City missed a golden chance to reduce the gap to the pack last week against Glenorchy but coughed up a 1-0 lead to go down 4-1.

“Disappointed that we were unable to take something positive away from last week certainly after going 1-0 up early,” Reynolds said.

“All credit to Knights, who created more goal scoring opportunities. The performance of new centre half, Angus Martin was pleasing.”

Reynolds believes there is improvement to come from his squad.

“A stronger performance in BPO and transition to BPO. Some players in our squad have not quite grasped the importance of these key moments to date. 

“With Mark Cristy returning from suspension and Nathan Bartlett potentially playing in a more advanced role, I believe that we will be able to create multiple scoring opportunities.

“Andy Compagne remains out with an ankle injury. However, we welcome back Mark Cristy from suspension and Yanjin Park who was unavailable last weekend. Angus Martin will make his second appearance for the club.”

South Hobart increased the gap at the top of the ladder last week and are now six points clear of their closest rivals, Tilford Zebras. 

“Last week was an important match for both teams, Olympia have a formidable team,” said South Hobart Manager Ken Morton.

“I thought we played well in the game, controlling the rhythm and tempo and we created a number of chances while limiting Olympia’s key players time and space.  

“I thought Dmitri Nester was in terrific form, pulling off a string of great saves, very happy with three well-earned points.”

South Hobart will be looking to continue winning ways on their last road trip this season.

“We are away on Saturday to Launceston City, this is our last Northern trip of the season.  We will need to prepare correctly for this game.  

“We can’t afford to drop silly points so our emphasis will be to make sure the players are focused and ready for this game. t5fh

“Launceston City have improved, they have some good players and if given opportunities will score goals but at the same time they have made mistakes and have been punished.  

“We will work hard, try and apply some early pressure on them and look for the breakthrough because it is important for us to keep that space at the top of the ladder. 

“In the last couple of games our team work has been good.  We have created chances, converted and we have defended well as a team, the key for our success we believe is teamwork.”

South Hobart’s embarrassment of riches continues, bringing in defensive utility Scott Lamont from the St Louis Lions in the third tier of US football. Morton also regains his skipper from suspension to create headaches at the selection table.

“Hugh Ludford returns after serving one week for a red card and of course, new signing Scott Lamont enters the squad.”

Olympia FC Warriors vs Northern Rangers – 6:00PM/Saturday 12 July (Warrior Park)

Last time they met: Northern Rangers 1 (Adam Edwards) drew with Olympia FC Warriors 1 (Nick Mearns) (2014 Victory League – Round 7)

Olympia FC Warriors FORM: W-W-L

Northern Rangers FORM: L-W-W

In match of the round, fourth placed Northern Rangers hit the road to face third placed Olympia under lights at Warrior Park.

After difficult period, Northern Rangers have turned their season back around with two clean sheets and two good wins to consolidate their position in the top four.

“Last week against Devonport was an important game for us, we really needed the win as we look to gather points for the top 4,” said Northern Rangers Coach Tim Lunnon.

“Overall, we were reasonably happy with the result, but there are still elements of our game that need tightening up and we aim to further improve in these areas,” added Lunnon.

Rangers face a team they have strong bragging rights over, with Olympia never defeating the northerners in any competition.

“This week’s game against Olympia in Hobart provides another test for us, but one the boys are looking forward to.  Olympia are always a tough match up down south, but we match up fairly well against them, so we are aiming to put our best foot forward.  

“Their squad is certainly stronger than last time we played them, with Ralph and Cabello in the mix.  Nester has been making some great saves of late also but we think some 1 on 1 battles will be key to the result.  If we put out best foot forward, it should be a great game.

“In terms of the match itself, yes it is important – you have to keep accruing points and this matchup is an opportunity to jump a spot on the ladder, so it certainly does add something into the mix.  

“We just have to stick to our game and no doubt defend well against some good attacking players.”

Adam Edwards returns from injury to an otherwise settled squad.

“We finally have Adam (Edwards) back after having a nasty infection picked up from either a boot stud or a recovery session.  

“It took a lot longer than we thought for him to recover, so it is good to have him back.  Apart from that, our squad is pretty settled, Nick is still a week or 2 away, so our squad to Hobart is pretty much the same as last week.  

“The boys have been doing a pretty good job, so you have to back them in again.”

Olympia’s title hopes took a tumble last week, when they fell 4-2 to South Hobart, the Warriors will be looking to bounce back this week against their bogey side.

“This week we welcome Northern Rangers to Warrior Park,” said Olympia Coach Glen McNeill.

“It looks like Rangers have turned the corner and they are back to producing consistent results. We are yet to earn three points against them and we will need to be at our best to achieve it,” added McNeill.

Third spot will be on the line for the winner of the tussle.

“We are obviously coming off the back of a disappointing performance last week and we will be looking to redeem ourselves on Saturday night.”

Nick Meredith was sent off last week with two yellow cards and will miss this week through suspension.

“We will be without Nick Meredith this week and this will give an opportunity for our players to stake a claim for a permanent spot. Brian Kabangu also returns from mainland travel.”