A difficult sequence of QSL games continues for the Brisbane Strikers this Saturday when they make the short journey across town to defend their newly-achieved status of league leaders against QAS Football at Meakin Park on Saturday.
After playing the other three teams in the top four over the last three weeks – Whitsunday Miners, Sunshine Coast Fire and Far North Queensland Bulls – the Strikers must now play the team that has strung together the most consecutive wins of any of the QSL’s teams at present to be knocking at the door of the top four, one point behind the Bulls.
QAS Football’s five wins in succession have completely turned around their season, which began with four consecutive losses at a stage when their squad was still coming together as the A-League youth season wound down.
So it goes without saying that Saturday’s clash should feature two teams who are riding high on confidence at present and who will go into the game with everything to play for in terms of the importance of the points on offer. Having risen to the top of the league table for the first time since Round 5, the Strikers should be desperate to ensure they do not hand the lead straight back to Sunshine Coast Fire by dropping any points to the QAS. And for their part, the youngsters will be keen to take advantage of any slip-up by the Bulls by winning this weekend to force their way into the top four.
While the previous fixture between the Strikers and QAS this season was won comfortably 4-0 by the Strikers, that will not influence a feeling of over-confidence within the team if Strikers skipper, John Costello, is on the mark.
“The boys are pretty well grounded heading into the game and that has been a feature of the team for the last six or eight weeks”, Costello said tonight. “Even though we’ve had great results heading into it, I don’t think that’s really a concern. I think that the boys understand both individually and as a group how we are preparing each week and how much of an impact that is having out on the field”.
If there is one thing that can be guaranteed about the QAS it is that they will, as always, play with a high level of technical proficiency, speed and fitness. With that in mind, Costello said last night’s friendly against the Young Socceroos was perhaps the ideal preparation for Saturday’s game.
“I think the QAS are probably a little bit better-gelled than what maybe the Young Socceroos were, because they’re playing together all the time whereas I think the Young Socceroos have just come into camp and have had to try and gel this week”, Costello said.
“But certainly in the way that they have to play their 4-3-3 system, and they look to play that passing style of football, there’s going to be some similarities there – and we’ve spoken about that a little bit, but not to take anything away from what the QAS are doing. In light of looking at our result against the Young Socceroos, we’re not really taking any of that into the game and being over-confident and thinking it’s going to be an automatic result. We know that these young boys are very volatile and when they’re on they can be really dangerous in certain areas of the park, so it’s something we are going to have to look out for”.
For the first time in three weeks, the Strikers will have two specialist centre-halves available for selection, with Alex Henderson and John Costello both fit and ready to play. The other specialist central defender, however, Ryan Mottin has still not recovered from the ankle injury he suffered three weeks ago against the Gold Coast Stars.
Other than Mottin, winger Jonti Richter and midfielder Michael Angus, who is troubled by a hip flexor injury, Srikers coach David Large said he expected to have all of his players available on Saturday.
Despite Henderson’s availability, Large said tonight he had not yet made up his mind about which players he would select in the centre half positions in his starting eleven. That decision would be influenced by the fitness of Angus and what he calls his “horses for courses” approach, which would benefit one player in particular.
“We know that the QAS are more of a footballing side and we basically know the shape they are going to play – there’s no hidden agenda there with them”, Large said.
“So it gives me an opportunity this week – and I can state this right now – that Chris Di Sipio will start against the QAS. And that’s basically because Chris can be very useful in shutting down in their set play situations from the back. In the past when we’ve played the QAS Chris has done the perfect job for me, and if you look back he’s played quite well against the QAS”.
Kick-off at Meakin Park will be at 6.00 pm, preceded by the State Youth League fixture between the Brisbane Strikers and QAS at 4.00 pm.