With the standalone NPL TAS fixture this weekend due to the A-League week long visit from Western United, champions Devonport Strikers entertained Kingborough Lions at UTAS Stadium in what left us with a surprise result and more questions than answers. Lions went on to defeat the defending title holders 2-0 for the first time since May 2014-15.

Kingborough made two changes with keeper Sheik Kamara dropped in favour of the returning Lee Mackie and Ben Hamlett who also came in while Devonport remained unchanged.

Lions watch on the WSL curtain raiser. Photo credit Melissa Docking
Strikers Eddie Bidwell looks on at the UTAS pitch. Photo supplied.
Before kickoff, a minutes silence was observed in memory of Somerset Sharks’ Kieren Whitehouse who tragically past away this week. This was also done before the WSL and A-League and FNR send our heartfelt condolences to his entire family and friends. Photo supplied.

Ben Hamlett returned to the scoring circle lobbing a running out keeper Nathan Pitchford desperate to clear any shot away. Pitchford could only watch as it sailed over the head and into the bottom left.

Adam McKeown soon made it two in what then stood as a surprising scoreline. Despite how Devonport’s start to the campaign has been, the neutral fan wouldn’t of predicted the Lions to be on top 2-0 so early.

Despite the scoreline Devonport just couldn’t find any rhythm and were unable to give a real threat to the attacking play or flanks. Eddie Bidwell toiled his way forward for countless runs but the service from playmakers like Joel Stone was just not coming today.

Devonport’s Eddie Bidwell clears away the danger of Lions’s Kenneth Trac. Photo supplied.
(l) Devonport’s Joel Stone looks away as Nicholas Lanau-Atkinson expresses his frustration to referee Mr Kopra after a challenge with Joseph Juma (3) Photo credit: Melissa Docking

Lions shut up shop in the second-half and didn’t want to risk losing the points until captain Keenan Douce hit true from range but only to be denied by Pitchford in what was a fantastic stretching save much to the annoyance of the Lions marksman.

Devonport keeper Nathan Pitchford stood up when needed pictured as he soars as Adam McKeown ducks for cover! Photo credit: Melissa Docking

Stats do tell the story in this one. Devonport with zero shots on target despite the six set-piece corners and Lions with a 75 % shot accuracy with limited efforts proving all that was necessary to lock away the premiership points.

Devonport have been so used to setting the tone early will we still see that in 2021? Or are the Lions just one of the potential upset winners you could tip for the crown? Hopefully we will have some answers next week when Devonport will be back in action at Valley Rd v Olympia while Kingborough will travel to Wentworth Park for an encounter with the Zebras.

The NPL TAS is shaping up to be another cracking season ladies and gents, hold on tight. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Tanner Coad
tannercoad@me.com
FNR's Tasmanian correspondent covering the NPL TAS and A-League. Also write for Football Tasmania and Beyond 90 {W-League}. Has a strong belief in creativity and strives to tell the stories behind the captured image.