Meredith Back With A Brace As Strikers Down Gold Coast United

Mar 03, 2018 by

Brisbane Strikers senior coach Owen Baker said the defending premiers still had a way to go before they fully hit their straps after watching them claim their first win of the 2018 NPL Queensland season by a 4-2 scoreline over Gold Coast United tonight.

Strikers took a 3-0 lead into the half time break courtesy of two goals to centre forward Rhys Meredith (pictured) and one to midfielder Michael Lee, but were forced to battle for the points after Gold Coast United’s Asim Tomic and Lochlan Reus scored second half goals to reduce Strikers’ lead to 3-2.

A late goal to Strikers midfielder Jake McLean steadied any nerves for the home side and clinched all three points for them in a game played in dripping humidity that might just prove a useful dress rehearsal for Strikers’ next assignment – a midday kickoff in far north Queensland against Cairns FC next Sunday.

“We were really happy to get the win, given (what happened) in the first three games, and we were happy going into half time at 3-0,” Baker said after the game.

“We probably could have gone in with a bit better scoreline, but we knew the second half wasn’t going to be easy and when we conceded the two goals it got a bit scrappy in the middle stages of the second half.

“But the boys were resilient enough to hang on and go and get the fourth goal, which was just what we needed to tonight.”

Baker said Strikers’ performance was an improvement on recent efforts, but more improvement was still needed.

“We were hoping we could push on,” said Baker when asked how he felt about his team’s chances of running up a big scoreline after a totally dominant opening thirty minutes had seen them 3-0 up.

“But we know we’re probably still not quite there yet in terms of ninety-minute performances. The boys have just got to keep working hard at training so we can turn those thirty minutes and those spells of domination into ninety-minute performances.”

Strikers went into the game with just one change to their starting eleven from the Round Three 2-2 draw with Moreton Bay United, with Ryan Palmer regaining his starting position at the expense of Zac Maltby.

And they began as might be expected from a team desperate for its first win of the season – with pace, purpose and hunger to win the tackles and drive forward.

It took only seven minutes for McLean to open up United’s defence with a well-weighted pass that got Lee in behind for a run at debutant goalkeeper Luca Zoric’s goal. The young goalkeeper did well to parry Lee’s attempted finish but saw the ball break free to the midfielder who regathered for a tap-in to put Strikers on their way.

With Strikers’ midfield of Lee, McLean, Michael Angus and Seb Scaroni well on top and Meredith’s direct running causing United’s centre backs, Nagata Uryu and Curtis Stollery, all sorts of problems it was one-way traffic towards the visitors’ goal. It came as no surprise when Meredith outpaced their backline to chase down a long ball over the top in the thirty-first minute before Zoric clumsily brought him down in United’s penalty area.

A penalty was awarded by referee Paul Eldridge, and Meredith converted it comfortably for his first goal since Round 3 of 2016 to put Strikers 2-0 up.

Four minutes later United were stung again as Meredith scorched across the turf to run on to Lee’s pass. United’s defenders had again left Zoric one-on-one with an opponent and Meredith, who had lost out in a similar situation earlier, this time outsmarted Zoric by dribbling around him on to his less-favoured left foot and tucking his shot into the empty net.

At 3-0 Strikers looked in total control and United, who had managed just one shot on goal – and that from long distance – seemed likely to find themselves on the end of a hiding.

But instead they wrested the initiative from the home team. Four minutes before the interval United midfielder Nicholas Panetta raised his team’s spirits when he rode several attempted tackles inside Strikers’ penalty area before shooting wide of the target.

Then Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archbold was forced into a sharp save, racing off his line and saving at point-blank range from United fullback Tyler Wagstaffe, who was through on goal after a well-constructed attack by the visitors.

These were good signs for United, who went on with it after the restart. In the fifty-fourth minute they got a reward for their efforts when midfielder Asim Tomic was left unmarked to head home a cross from the left.

And when former Brisbane Striker Lachlan Reus surprised everyone in the ground – and most particularly Archbold – two minutes later with a forty-five yarder that caught the Strikers’ goalkeeper off his line before hitting the back stanchion of his goal, United were right back in the contest.

For a while, Strikers were forced to scramble and dig deep into their reserves of stamina, organisation and self-belief as their resurgent opponents came at them in search of an equalizer. It was at this stage of the contest that proven defenders like centre half Greig Henslee and fullback Hiroki Omori stood tall for the home team.

Strikers used their bench, brining on Maltby for Meredith and new signing Brock Messenger for Scaroni to try to stem the tide while Tomic and Rees Duncan were replaced by Joshua Riis and Max Fitzgerald for United with the game in the balance.

Eventually, the home team regained the upper hand. With the tireless Omori bombing forward again and again and combining with Lee down Strikers’ left channel they looked the more likely team to score another goal.

And, as the contest went into its eighty-third minute, it was indeed Omori and Lee, combining with Palmer to tease and torment United’s tiring defence, who opened up the way for McLean to clinch the points for Strikers with a first-time shot from ten yards that beat Zoric’s despairing dive.

The win lifted Strikers to four points and above United into mid-table territory.

“We’ve got to go on a run now, that’s the aim,” said Baker. “It’s back in to training on Monday to make sure that we keep lifting our standards and try to get better and get the points on the board.”

NPL Queensland Round 5: Brisbane Strikers 4 [Lee 7, Meredith 31 (pen), 35, McLean 83) v Gold Coast United 2 (Tomic 54, Reus 56).

Brisbane Strikers: Nathan Archbold (gk), Greig Henslee, Micheal McGowan, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Rhys Meredith, Jake McLean, Sam Knight, Ryan Palmer, Hiroki Omori, Sebastian Scaroni. Subs: Brock Messenger, Zac Maltby, Denis Yongule. Coach: David Large.

Gold Coast United: Luca Zorich (gk), Tyler Wagstaffe, Lochlan Reus, Acim Tomic, Uryu Nagata, Conor Smith, Rees Duncan, Brandon Reeves, Nicholas Panetta, Joshua Mussel, Curtis Stollery. Subs: Joshua Riis, Max Fitzgerald, Jack Gates. Coach: Michael Runje.

Referee: Paul Eldridge

Photo: Roze Gallo

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