Round 6 Preview
The round begins with the ladder leading Hobart Zebras taking on Northern Rangers at the NTCA ground as Rangers enter week three of a five round homestead. Rangers have shown plenty of improvement in 2017 but having conceded 12 goals in their three games against the rest of the top four this season, whether their defence is up to the task of keeping out a potent Zebras attack is questionable. The aerial onslaught that Zebras have inflicted on sides has been downright devastating and Rangers aren’t a team with a ton of tall timber which will make things difficult for them. At other end of the park, it’s now a month since the Zebras conceded a goal with their defensive unit looking rock solid so far so Rangers are going to have their work cut out for them trying to find a way through. No side from the bottom four has taken points from a top four side so far this season. Rangers came close last week before conceding late goals but Zebras are rolling right now and will fancy themselves to keep that going here.
The Kingborough Lions season went from bad to worse last week and whilst it does seem like the sky is falling at the Den, a look back to last season can give them some cause for optimism. It was around about this time last year that Launceston City crashed to a 10-0 defeat at the hands of South Hobart at Darcy Street before bouncing back with a 5-0 win at home over Clarence a week later. Not that you’d expect that to repeat here but it goes to show that the very top sides in the competition are more than capable of dishing out a thumping and there is quite a sizeable gap between the best and the rest. If the Lions are to get anything out of the game against an improved Clarence side then they will need to sort themselves out at the back, heads dropped early last week and they didn’t look up for the fight. When they came storming out of the sheds in the second half against Devonport earlier in the year they showed a desire and fight that has been lacking in recent weeks, Markaj must find a way for his side to rediscover it if they are to turn things around. Clarence too will be looking to past last week behind them, they were brushed aside by their Eastern Shore rivals and never in the contest. Last season the Lions dished out two thumpings in two of their meetings. Given the current state of affairs at the Den, Clarence will be eyeing this as their chance for revenge.
In the game of the round South Hobart travel up to Valley Road to meet their nemesis of 2016, the Devonport Strikers. In the corresponding fixture last season, South Hobart absolutely battered the Strikers but just couldn’t find a way past an inspired Niko Giantsopoulos as the Strikers took a massive step towards their eventual title triumph. It was a familiar script in their clashes last season and despite the significant turnover in personnel that the Strikers have had this season, there is no doubt South Hobart will be out to exercise a few demons in this one. Valley Road is a tough place for any side to take points away from as Hobart Zebras learned in the opening round and whilst the Strikers have faltered slightly in recent weeks, their potent front three all got on the score sheet last week to ensure they kept pace with the top four. South Hobart did as they willed against the languid Lions but as Ken Morton noted post game, goal difference could well prove important this year, so that they went on and put a team to the sword was a major positive. That is a hypothetical for a long way down the road yet though, for now both these sides need to keep chalking up the points and know that they won’t come easy in what is sure to be a cracking contest.
With all four games taking place on the Saturday the round ends with Launceston City hosting a red hot Olympia Warriors side at Buckby Landrover Park. Last week City struggled with the aerial threat of Huigsloot but this week represents a different threat from another in form striker. Jakub Sklenar moved a goal clear in the golden boot race with his ninth of the season and he looked downright unplayable at times last week. His style is more making runs to get in behind the lines with the Warriors looking to hit his feet than long balls to his head though. City will need to pay him close attention and cut off his supply because if he given time to shoot he will more than likely punish them. Another man they will need to clamp down on is Hugh Undy who might be the form player of the league right now. He is creating chances frequently and has shown the ability to grab goals himself. The Warriors seem to be getting better every week as they continue to gel as a squad and with the likes of Cartwright, Conway and Vandermey all to come back into the side, things are looking up. For City, they have just the solitary point and with South Hobart following this game, life isn’t going to get any easier for Brookfield’s men. They need their imports, Dylan O’Connor and Dylan Williams to step up and make the difference, both have shown flashes of quality, but not really taken over a game as of yet. If they are to cause an upset in this one then their big names will need to provide those moments of inspiration that have been lacking in City’s game so far this year.
PS4 NPL TAS ROUND 6
Northern Rangers v Hobart Zebras , Saturday 15 April, 12:30pm, NTCA 2
Kingborough v Clarence , Saturday 15 April, 2:00pm, Lightwood Park
Devonport v South Hobart, Saturday 15 April, 2:30pm, Valley Road
Launceston City v Olympia, Saturday 15 April, 4:30pm, Buckby Landrover Park