Dominant Strikers Brush Aside North Queensland To Go Third

Apr 28, 2018 by

Two first half goals from midfielder Michael Lee laid the foundation for a comfortable 4-1 victory over North Queensland United that propelled the Brisbane Strikers into third position on the NPL Queensland table at Perry Park tonight.

Strikers were untroubled to record their eighth successive league win as they delivered on defender Greig Henslee’s pre-match pledge to capitalize on last week’s crucial win away to Olympic FC with a commanding performance at home against North Queensland.

After Strikers had taken a 2-0 lead into half time, midfielder Jake McLean added a third goal early in the second half before Strikers were made to battle for a while as North Queensland midfielder Darren Walker’s headed goal brought the visitors back to 3-1 after seventy-two minutes.

But another of the Strikers’ dominant midfield trio – Ryan Palmer – restored their three-goal cushion five minutes later as Strikers took maximum points and climbed above Lions FC on the league table for the first time this season, courtesy of Lions’ postponed fixture against Brisbane Roar FC Youth.

North Queensland were always at long odds to take anything out of this game, given the barren run of form they had endured in losing their previous five fixtures. And those odds lengthened considerably within thirty seconds of the kick-off as Strikers mounted an attack down their left flank from and Lee arrived with perfect timing into their penalty area to smash a low cross into the visitors’ goal off the underside of goalkeeper Daniel Wilesmith’s crossbar.

1-0 up before they had even broken into a gallop, Strikers spend the next twenty minutes or so in almost total control of the ball, passing intricate patterns around North Queensland’s red shirts as the visitors doggedly dug in.

Strikers missed good scoring opportunities as fullback Hiroki Omori blazed his volleyed attempted finish to a Sam Knight cross wide of goal and Palmer, played in by Lee’s pass, also drove his shot across goal with only Wilesmith to beat. But the home team was unlucky not go to two ahead when Zach Maltby latched on to another cross from Knight to beat Wilesmith with his powerfully-struck shot, only to see the ball rebound to safety off the goalkeeper’s near post.

Meanwhile North Queensland, having battled for the opening thirty minutes to get out of their own half, raised their hopes with a counter-attack that saw Matthew Miller get away down their left flank to drill in a low cross towards the near post where his skipper, Corey Waples, got the first touch but sent his attempted finish wide of goal.

Waples was soon to regret his miss as Strikers, in the shadow of the half time break, worked the ball forward to the ever-willing Maltby, who was fouled twenty yards out from the visitors’ goal. Lee accepted the responsibility for the resulting direct free kick after McLean had earlier driven one into North Queensland’s defensive wall – and this time the result was a thumping drive from Lee that flew into the bottom right corner of Wilesmith’s goal.

Strikers’ 2-0 lead at the break was probably insufficient reward for their dominance, but that hardly seemed to matter when they opened the second half just as strongly as they had ended the first, with Rhys Meredith replacing skipper Michael Angus from the bench for the restart.

Strikers were soon on the offensive and camped around North Queensland’s penalty area, venturing forward in such numbers that centre half Henslee found himself with the ball at his feet and facing North Queensland’s defenders. Eschewing the nosebleed option afforded centre halves in such circumstances, Henslee made a drive for the byline, leaving defenders in his wake before cutting a pass back to McLean, whose shot seemed to take a deflection to leave Wilesmith wrongfooted as it tricked into the net to put Strikers 3-0 ahead.

Wilesmith was able to do rather better to deflect a back post volley from Palmer away with his legs a few minutes later, as the one-way traffic towards United’s goal continued. But then the game drifted for a while as Strikers lost momentum without North Queensland being able to wrest it away from them.

But in the seventy-second minute the visitors briefly gave themselves some hope of rescuing a point when Walker beat Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archbold with a well-directed header when he rose uncontested to a lofted cross from the left.

North Queensland forced Strikers to scramble in defence for a few minutes as they upped the ante, before the home side regathered its composure to score a well-crafted goal on the counter-attack as McLean deftly helped on a pass into the stride of Meredith.

The speedy centre forward darted through the inside-left channel before cutting infield to slide a pass across to Palmer who, twelve yards or so out from goal, skipped sideways to work the ball on to his right foot, beating a defender as he did so, before blasting his shot into the bottom left corner of Wilesmith’s net, giving the goalkeeper no chance.

Strikers then comfortably saw out the game to go to twenty-five points, one ahead of Lions FC, who have a game in hand, and five points behind leaders Western Pride, who don’t.

Strikers centre half Michael McGowan (pictured), in summing up the game, agreed his team had always been in control but gave credit to North Queensland for keeping the score respectable after conceding so early.

“I think we were the better team throughout the game. We controlled it well, more or less for the entire game,” McGowan said.

“They had a couple of counter-attacks, but that’s always going to happen. But overall I think it’s a decent result. Obviously, as a defender, I’m disappointed not to get a clean sheet – it was a bit of a sloppy goal to lose – but other than that it was a pretty convincing victory.

“To be fair to North Queensland, I think they stayed in the game for a long time. It could have been easy (after conceding early) to get their heads down, but I thought they kept working hard, kept battling. They’re a very honest team and they didn’t make it easy for us, but I just think that class shone through in the end.”

NPL Queensland Round 12, Perry Park, 28 April: Brisbane Strikers 4 (Lee 1,43; McLean 49, Palmer 77) v North Queensland United FC 1 (Walker, 72)

Brisbane Strikers: Nathan Archbold (gk), Brock Messenger, Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Sam Knight, Ryan Palmer, Hiroki Omori, Zachary Maltby. Sub: Rhys Meredith. Coach: David Large

North Queensland United: Daniel Wilesmith (gk), Justin Rawlins, Matthew Miller, Theo Nicopoulos, Corey Waples (c), Robin Edwards, Jarrod Green, Jae Eurell, Darren Walker, Nicholas Figg, Michael Eisenhut. Subs: Kyren Walters, Harrison Linning, Mitchell Maher. Coach: Michael Brooks.

Referee: Matt Skinner

Photo: Michele Pitman

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