Round 3 Preview
Round 3 Fixtures
Friday 24 March
Hobart Zebras v South Hobart, KGV, 8:00pm
Saturday 25 March
Kingborough v Devonport, Lightwood Park, 2:00pm
Sunday 26 March
Olympia v Northern Rangers, Warrior Park, 2:30pm
Clarence v Launceston City, Wentworth Park 2, 2:30pm
Friday Night Blockbuster Headlines Round 3
Round three of the NPL Tasmania season is upon us as after a fortnight of games we are starting to learn more about the 8 teams and what their expectations should be this season. Already there is an air of familiarity about the table with a top 4 of South Hobart, Zebras, Devonport and Olympia forming. These were probably the four favourites entering the season, but it’s still way too early to be making major judgments and things could look significantly different by the end of the this round.
The current top two are set to kick off the round on Friday night when Hobart Zebras host South Hobart at KGV in a Friday night blockbuster. If South were to win, they would have an early gap of 5 points to Zebras, which could prove significant in the title race as the season wares on. South Hobart side are the only team to start with two wins from their two matches and they are yet to concede a goal in either of those two games. Former Zebras keeper Graham Wright has made a strong start to the season at his new side since switching over the summer and will be playing against his former team for the first time in this game. Another new arrival in Adam Gorrie has also been a stand out, whilst the emergence of youngsters, Alex Walter and Ryan Cook has helped offset the loss of Darcy Hall. Having a fit again Ben Hamlett has filled the void left by the injured Alex Leszczynski and he now has 3 goals in the first 2 games.
Hobart Zebras bounced back from a 2-2 draw against Devonport in week one, with a 5-0 thumping of Clarence in round 2. The signing of striker Mathew Sanders looks to be one of the best in the league after he scored a spectacular hat-trick in round 2, to back up a dominant pre-season in which he scored in the majority of their games. He will be key to their fortunes against South as will their ability to threaten from set pieces. New signing Chris Downes is the best free kick taker in the league and his delivery to big physical threats like Luke Huigsloot, Nick Groenewold with Matt Sanders lurking will be an area that Zebras look to exploit. Even if they don’t have a heap of possession, the Zebras side have the firepower to stay in games.
Then on Saturday afternoon attention swings to Lightwood Park with Devonport hitting the road for the first time this season to take on Kingborough. The Lions will be looking for their first victory of the season and after throwing away leads in their first two games, they will want to show they can run out the full 90 minutes in this one. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the significant influx of new players, they are still yet to really click as a team, but on an individual level the likes of Kovadio and Akakpo have stood out. Both these teams have openly preached that they want to play attractive and positive football, so if both stick to their guns this could be quite the open affair with goals expected. Devonport have impressed in the opening two weeks at the “Portress” but with Brayden Mann and Michael Holden both out this week, they will have less firepower at their disposal. It will put more pressure on the likes of Tyler Fischer and Harrison Wicks to repeat their efforts from last week and help carry the goal scoring load.
On Sunday attention shifts to the Eastern Shore of Hobart with two games taking place. The first of which is Olympia hosting Northern Rangers at Warrior Park. The Warriors will enter this one as red hot favourites after seeming to click in the final 20 minutes against the Lions but they will be wanting to display that kind of form much earlier in games from here on out if they are to meet their lofty expectations. Lucas Hill and Gavin Hoy should bolster the side but Sam Conway will miss through injury. Their superior fitness was telling against Kingborough and after Rangers ran out of legs in the searing heat against South Hobart last week, it could again prove a decisive factor in this game. Rangers biggest problem is trying to convert goal scoring chances, they have looked a striker short through the opening fortnight and despite some nice passages of play are yet to find the back of the net.
Finally Wentworth Park will see its first action of the season with Clarence taking on Launceston City. Both sides followed up promising opening round efforts with a step backwards in week 2, as both sides fell to fairly comfortable defeats. Like Rangers Clarence will be looking to hit the back of the net for the first time this season and need to find some supporters to work with target man Paul Bremner up top. Nick Naden who has been at left back for the first 2 rounds could be an option to push further forward and provide that required fire power. Launceston City will welcome a new Irish import in the form of Kyle Kelly but having just arrived, whether he is ready to start already remains to be seen. Their other imports, Dylan O’Connor and Williams were well held against Devonport and will need to have more of an influence on the contest if they are to claim victory from a venue they visited twice last season, for a 2-0 defeat and 2-2 draw.