Brisbane Strikers skipper Michael Angus says his team will probably look to unleash a battery of youthful ambition on visitors Brisbane City in their last home fixture of the regular season at Perry Park on Saturday evening.
With their entry into the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues finals series and the premiership secured last weekend, and a massive Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 clash with Hyundai A-League club Melbourne City FC coming up on Wednesday night, Angus said Strikers coach Kevin A’Herne-Evans was mindful of the need to manage his options by resting players walking a yellow cards tightrope.
That would probably create an opportunity for players on the fringe of the regular starting eleven to impress in the local derby against City, who are locked in a cut-throat three-way tussle for fourth spot with Redlands United and Olympic FC.
“We will go with the same approach for this game that we do with every game. We’ll be approaching it to get a result,” Angus said today.
“But with the finals and the FFA Cup coming up it’s going to be a squad thing, and there will probably be opportunities for guys like Marshy (Luke Marsh) and Feli Sheriff (pictured) as the coaching staff have a look at which players can affect a game. You have a squad for a reason.”
Marsh has played several full games for Strikers this season but has mostly been involved off the bench, while Sheriff has not featured since breaking a toe in an unfortunate road incident after the game against Redlands United in July.
City enter the final round of fixtures in fourth position on 34 points. United and Olympic also have 34 points but trail John Kosmina’s side on the league table on goal difference as they chase the all-important fourth and last berth in the PlayStation 4 NPL finals.
With Redlands in action on Friday night, City will know by the time they take the field at Perry Park exactly what they have to do to finish above them. However Olympic’s final game, against Western Pride, does not take place until Sunday so City will still have no option other than to take the game to the Strikers at Perry Park in search of three points.
Such an approach would be a rare experience for a Strikers team accustomed to visiting teams playing cautiously – and Angus was relishing the prospect.
“I think it will be an exciting game,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how they set up – whether they go all-out or go for a transition game. So we’ll size that up in the first few minutes and come up with a plan for it, and see if we have to keep them at bay or how we counter-act them”.
With the pressure off Strikers for the first time this season the players selected by A’Herne-Evans will be able to give full creative effect to the skills and football philosophy that have carried the club to the title.
That potentially spells problems for the visitors. While City have been in good goalscoring form lately, as evidenced by last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Redlands and the previous round’s 4-0 win over Brisbane Roar FC Youth, Kosmina has recently been less than enthused about their defending. If they open up too much in their quest for goals on Saturday a confident Strikers outfit, playing with a licence to express themselves, might just carry on where they left off with their 6-1 flogging of Northern Fury last Saturday.
Adding spice to the contest will be the return to Perry Park, in City’s colours, of several former prominent Brisbane Strikers. Kosmina himself, of course, was coach of the club in its National Soccer League days from 1998 to 2003. Meanwhile players Greg King and Scot Coulson need no introduction to Strikers fans of more recent vintage. Both players left Perry Park in the last off-season, with King having been part of the Strikers’ senior squad since 2012 and Coulson since 2013.
Both players have found regular starting positions at City, with Coulson in fine form in front of goal, having scored a hat-trick against Roar, while the versatile King has spent much of the season at centre half.
To win at Perry Park City must make club history. Not only have they never won a PlayStation 4 NPL or Westfield FFA Cup match against Strikers at their home ground, but their record stretching back to the two clubs’ meetings in the Brisbane Premier League shows them pointless from eight attempts.
The match will be followed by the presentation of the PlayStation 4 premiers’ trophy to the full Strikers squad for the first time – a moment that Angus said he was greatly anticipating.
“We have not had a good chance to celebrate since winning the premiership in Townsville last week,” Angus said.
“The best way for the players is to come back to Perry Park and lift the trophy in front of our supporters and for it to be a squad thing for all of the players who have been involved.
“It will certainly be a proud moment for me as captain and for the club”.
Football fans attending the game on Saturday and also considering going to Wednesday night’s Westfield FFA Cup game will be able to purchase tickets at Perry Park from 3.00 pm.
Photo: Michele Pitman