With the Brisbane Strikers still awaiting a clearance from Greek football authorities for Socceroos defender Craig Moore to play for them on Saturday night, coach Stuart McLaren is faced with the frustrating situation of having to prepare two scenarios for the vital visit of the Far North Queensland Bulls to Perry Park – one with Moore in his team and one without him.
Moore, 34, who is on the cusp of his second World Cup finals campaign, is looking to gain match fitness by playing in the QSL with the Strikers after training with them for the past fortnight. But his hopes of playing two or three games for them before heading into camp with the Socceroos are still on tenterhooks as he awaits a clearance from his previous club, Greek side Kavala.
If Moore were to gain a late clearance he would be rushed into a Brisbane Strikers side that is still battling against a glut of injuries and the suspension of winger Sean Burke, and which desperately needs to beat the Bulls – who they thrashed 8-2 in a pre-season game just weeks before the season got underway – to leapfrog them on the QSL table.
McLaren admits the game is a crucial one for the Strikers, who are currently in fourth position on the QSL table, three points behind the Bulls.
“It is”, he conceded. “We spoke about it at the end of our training session last night. I said I was not going to insult their intelligence by carrying on at length about the importance of the game, but they understand that we can’t give too much ground away to the teams above us.
“There is also the factor of the Bulls playing for their pride and for revenge, and wanting to remove the memory of that last game from their minds. This will be a completely different team to last time”.
McLaren said he expected the Bulls, under the guidance of their attack-minded coach Peter Tokesi, to back themselves and come to Perry Park looking to take the game to their hosts.
“The table doesn’t lie – the Bulls have had four wins and scored plenty of goals”, McLaren said today. “The number of goals they have scored tends to indicate they will go on the front foot and be more focused on going forward than on sitting back so it should be a good, open match”.
Since suffering the pre-season loss to the Strikers in Mareeba the Bulls have regrouped quickly. They have surprised some observers by winning four of their first five games, scoring sixteen goals in the process while conceding eleven. The Strikers, by comparison, were struggling to score goals before going on a four-goal rampage in the second half last week against Bundaberg Spirit.
But while last week’s result, and the manner in which it was achieved, was encouraging for the Strikers they are still dangerously undermanned going into the clash with the Bulls. McLaren is still unable to call upon skipper Chay Hews and Calum Hare, who both joined Myles Carseldine, Gareth Musson and Ryan Mottin on the club’s injured list last week. And with winger Sean Burke having incurred a three week suspension for the sins that earned him a red card late in last week’s win over the Bundaberg Spirit, that means six of McLaren’s twenty-man squad are unavailable.
McLaren, however, said he was not overly concerned about finding the right player to replace Burke, who played on the right side of his attack force last Saturday, and that he did not think the solution was to re-shape his team.
“I think I will just be a straight swap”, he said. “We’ve got a couple of options, but Jordan Farina has played in that sort of role before and he will most likely do the job on Saturday”.
The availability, or otherwise, of Moore would have its most obvious effect on McLaren’s defensive and midfield options. If Moore plays he would most likely slot into a central defensive role, which would allow McLaren the option of pushing one of his regular defenders into a midfield role – where all of them have played at some point in the past – which in turn would open up possibilities of considering midfielders for forward positions – either from the start or off the bench.
Without Moore, however, McLaren’s denuded line up virtually picks itself.
Brisbane Strikers v Far North Queensland Bulls – 7.00 pm, Perry Park, Saturday 1 May.
Curtain raiser: Brisbane Strikers Under-19s v Logan Strikers Under-19s – Kick-off 4.45 pm