- Written by Walter Pless
- Published: 31 August 2012
Photo: The NTCA Ground, the venue for tonight's semi-final between Northern Rangers and Devonport City [PlessPix]
Two exciting and close games should be in store for Tasmanian football fans as Northern Rangers take on Devonport City and South Hobart meet Ulverstone in the semi-finals of the State-wide Top-Four Finals series.
Rangers and Devonport are in action at the NTCA Ground at 8pm today, while South’s showdown with Ulverstone is at South Hobart at 1pm tomorrow.
Nat Cochrane and Michael Holden return to the Devonport line-up after both were unavailable last weekend when Devonport overcame New Town Eagles 3-2 at Clare Street.
Devonport’s big loss, though, is Irishman Joe Toner, who has returned to Ireland.
“He'll be missed,” said Devonport City player-coach, Chris McKenna. “He had a great ability to bring other players into the game with his creativity and we'll have to fill the void he leaves through other avenues this week.
“Grant Ashdown will move to the bench to make way for Holden.
“It's another big game and one we're very much looking forward to.
“We're aware of the quality football Rangers can play and we know that we'll have to perform at least as well as we did last weekend against Eagles if we want to progress to the final.
“Our boys are confident and ready so, hopefully, both teams can put on a game worthy of the occasion.”
Devonport have beaten Rangers twice already this season - 4-1 and 2-1 - and Rangers will need to produce something special to reverse this trend.
They looked good last weekend when they downed Kingborough Lions United in a penalty shoot-out to reach the penultimate stage of the tournament.
But, they will need to be sharper in front of goal and more alert in defence if they are to topple a Devonport side that hit the winner against Eagles in the dying seconds of the game last weekend.
South Hobart should be favourites against Ulverstone, but they will be without Frenchman Loic Feral, who has returned to France after a successful couple of seasons in Tasmania.
Sam Kruijver, who has hardly seen any senior action this season, may be in goal again if Matthew Ferguson is still injured.
Ulverstone will be without Adam Conkie, who is unavailable, and he will be replaced by Sam Thomson, a talented youngster.
“We haven't started too many games this year where we have been underdogs,” said Ulverstone coach, Nick Owen, who is a former South Hobart player.
“South Hobart have beaten us twice in recent history, and both times it has been 5-0.
“In last year's final-4 and this year's Hudson Cup we have had depleted sides out on the park, but this time we are nearly at full strength and should put in a much better showing.
“Joel Stone has asked to play in the middle of the park against Shae Hickey, so I have moved him in to the centre and will push Thomson out to the right of midfield.
“Brayden Mann pulled up a little bit sore on Tuesday night, so he has been rested but should be ready to go on Saturday.
“Cedric Cox-Haines will be in goal again. I was really pleased with him last week and I am confident he will do a good job again for us this week.
Ben Foote has been the big motivator within this team all year and he is getting the squad pumped up and ready to give a battle worthy of a state semi-final.”