Brisbane Strikers coach Kevin A’Herne-Evans says Brisbane football fans should expect his team to be up against extremely accomplished opposition when they take on Canberra Olympic in their first foray into the PlayStation 4 NPL Finals Series at Perry Park on Saturday.
As always, A’Herne-Evans has done his homework on his team’s opposition, who have not only won the Capital Football Premiership but also its grand final while storming into the quarter-finals of the Westfield FFA Cup .
What he has learned about Olympic suggests that any if any NPL Queensland followers harbour preconceptions about their league being superior to its ACT counterpart they might be in for a surprise.
“From the footage that we’ve gathered on them and the information that we’ve got they are a team that have an ability to win a game in a number of different scenarios,” A’Herne-Evans said after training his team on Thursday night.
“They can soak up a lot of pressure and hit a team on the counter-attack, they are good at set plays and they’ve got a top, top player in Robbie Cattenach up front who is a really accomplished finisher and just so clever. He drives at the centre backs, finds little pockets of space and drives at defenders into the box and wins a lot of free kicks and penalties from that ability.”
A’Herne-Evans said Olympic deploy an effective combination of pragmatism and flair.
“You can really see the strong futsal background to a number of their players because they are really happy one v one in tight spaces,” A’Herne-Evans continued.
“And defensively they’ve got a lot of good experience there. They’d be classed as traditional defenders – they’re not too adventurous in what they do, they just do the basics really well.
“They win the headers, win the tackles and they get the ball to their creative players as quickly as possible knowing that their wide players have good delivery for the man with the best name in football, Philippe Bernabo-Madrid, who is a real handful. Their front two, Bernabo-Madrid and Cattenach, have scored a lot of goals between them.”
A’Herne-Evans is resigned to not being able to select his top scorer, Rhys Meredith, who has not yet recovered from ankle ligament damage sustained in the first minute of Strikers’ PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland semi-final loss against Redlands United three weeks ago.
But all three of the players who have recently been trialling with Hyundai A-League clubs – fullback Hiroki Omori, centre back Jake Marshall and goalkeeper Michael Weier – will be available.
A’Herne-Evans said the experience all three had gained from training full-time at the top level would have them in good shape physically and mentally for Saturday’s encounter.
Strikers have not played since the semi-final loss to Redlands while Olympic are match-hardened after winning the Capital Football Grand Final 3-0 over Canberra FC last weekend.
But A’Herne-Evans said he was not concerned about the disparity in match play between the two teams. In fact, he thought it might work in his team’s favour.
“That week (when Strikers lost to Redlands in the PS4 NPL Queensland semi-final and to Hyundai A-League club Melbourne City in the Westfield FFA Cup) took a lot out of the players physically and mentally,” A’Herne-Evans said.
“Had we gone and tried to back that up again with a grand final, there’s only a certain amount of times that you can keep asking your players, can you keep getting up for it? Can you get up for a grand final, can you get up for the FFA Cup, can you get up for the NPL Finals?
“Look at what Canberra Olympic have gone through where they’ve won the FFA Cup (Round of 16) game against Redlands, they’ve then gone on and won their league, and gone on and won their grand final.
“Now it becomes really tricky for them because you’re asking them, can you travel to Brisbane and get up for another game when, in the back of their minds, they’re starting to think about Green Gully (their next Westfield FFA Cup opponents) – can they get to the final four of the FFA Cup?
“That’s a massive ask while, in our setup, we’ve had a bit of down time. We’ve had a week where we could settle back down and then build the training load back up.
‘And we’ve got some really knowledgeable defenders and staff who are masters of dealing with this kind of scenario. We’ve identified the importance of getting that spark right so that the performance is right for the weekend – that’s what we’ve focused on this weekend, really.”
PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues Finals Series 2016 – Elimination Final
Brisbane Strikers FC v Canberra Olympic FC
Saturday, September 17 | 6:00PM
Perry Park, Brisbane
Tickets – $10 (adults), $5 (concession), Free (Under 16’s)
Watch the LIVE stream at www.nationalpremierleagues.com.au