Derby Draw Delights & Disappoints

Casimir Douglas 

Launceston City and Northern shared the spoils, as their Round 6 clash in the PS4 NPL Tasmania season ended in a 1-1 draw. The points were shared, bodies were battered, and egos were bruised in a match that both sides did their best work after the half time break in. The contest transformed into typical derby match full of intensity, physicality and slices of cheese, after a flat and somewhat patient first half showing from both sides.

Launceston City entered the match the clear favourites having returned to winning ways last week with a comfortable 5-0 victory over a Clarence side still finding their stride in the competition. This was an unfamiliar feeling for City, who for the first time since the inauguration of this iteration of the State League, entered the season favoured to take out the derby cup over Northern Rangers. Current ladder cellar-dwellers, Rangers had struggled for form early in the season but in the past two weeks, despite not recording a win, had been much improved. This was an opportunity for Rangers to have all the chatter to be about their performance on the field, and not off it.

Rangers coach, Dane Hudson, had spoken mid-week about the slow-process of the new-look Rangers side gelling together, and how this had affected their season thus far. This process was not about to get any easier with the introduction of a new Spanish recruit, Jorge Palacio, a 25 year-old central defender who has been plying his footballing craft in Queensland. City also welcomed back 2015 Peter Savill medallist, Dominic Rossi to the side; he would start on the bench.

On a day of perfect football conditions in the north of the state, both sides began the game slowly in somewhat of a feeling out process. In fact, for the majority of the first half, the game did not move out of first gear.

City controlled much of the play for the first 15 minutes and had the lion’s share of possession in the first half. They were patient in the build up, but perhaps too much so. Whilst Isaac Degetto and Aaron Campbell were busy on the wings, they were unable to find the space in the early going to create any chances. But when that chance finally came, Launceston City converted their first shot on goal.

In the 31st minute, after capitalising on a Rangers turn over, City managed to find Isaac Degetto in some space on the right hand side of the 18 yard box in behind his defender. Peruvian keeper, Luigi Cordova, came out to close the angle but Degetto finished calmly across his body and into the bottom left hand corner of the net to give City the 1-0 lead. Degetto then celebrated with a spectacular acrobatic display for the approving home fans out the front of clubhouse.

City headed into the change rooms at the break deserved leaders, and Rangers would need to improve their intensity and the speed with which they used the ball in the second half to bring themselves back into the contest.

This is exactly what Rangers did from the first whistle of the second half. Rangers released the ball more quickly from defence to feet of their midfield three: Nick Lanau-Atkinson, a debuting Matthew Youd, and Harry Thanhausser. The true beneficiary of this improved ball movement was Mark Cristy, playing against his old club for the first time. After a very quiet first half, Cristy was busy in second, as the midfielders would regularly find his feet in dangerous positions.

In the 54th minute, Cristy just to left of goal on the edge of the 18-yard box, attempted to turn but was fouled by City captain, Toby Omenihu, who had an unusually quiet game. Tenzing Anderson would step up to plate to take the free kick for Rangers. Almost impossibly Anderson’s low curling strike would somehow navigate its way through the wall and find the bottom right hand corner of the goal past the diving David Smith, and balance the ledger at 1-1 for Northern Rangers.

From here, after a disappointing first half, the game kicked into overdrive, and proved delightful viewing for the impartial fan, but frustrating for those with their feet firmly planted in either camp, as both sides wasted clear cut chances.

The remainder of the match would be played in an end-to-end style battle with both sides creating a number of chances, with play and defences stretched. Launceston City continued to focus their attacks down the wing, and Rangers began to find the feet of Harry Thannhauser who chalked up a number of pass completions.

The 61st minute saw the return of Dominic Rossi for Launceston City, when he replaced Hayoto Ogusu. Rossi made some small contributions in the last half hour, but didn’t strongly impact the game as he returned from injury. However, not long after his introduction, Greg Duffy limped off the ground and was replaced by Will Rodman, creating further injury headaches for coach, Lino Sculli.

For Rangers, long distance shots from Bown and Youd sailed well over the bar. For City, their wing-focused attack would yield a number of corners, but were not able to convert any for the evening. Aaron Campbell was very busy on the right-wing for City, and his contests with attack-minded left back Tenzing Anderson were a highlight of the game.

In the 73rd minute, City created their best chance of the second half when Jervis Foley found himself unmarked inside the 18-yard box with the ball at his feet. The attempted volley sailed straight toward Cordova, who cleared the tame effort with ease.

In the 77th minute, Rangers created their second best chance for the day, which Mark Cristy should have converted. After some build up play from Campbell, Thanhausser and Nick Lanau-Atkinson, the ball was played into the feet of Cristy into an identical position to where Degetto scored in the first half. City Keeper, David Smith, came out to close the angle and Cristy attempted to finish beneath the keeper but Smith made a tremendous save with his feet to keep the score at 1-1.

And that was how the game finished. A draw temporarily moves Rangers off the bottom of the ladder into seventh place ahead of Kingborough Lions, who play tomorrow at Valley Road against Devonport. The draw leaves City firmly entrenched in 5th place looking over the shoulder of Olympia in 4th, and with some breathing space ahead of Clarence in 6th.

Both sides have a well-deserved rest next weekend, as both are already exited from the Milan Lakoseljac Cup. However, they re-boot their seasons in a fortnight for Round 7 action; City face a tough road trip away to Olympia, and Rangers host an in-form Devonport side at the NTCA.


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