Flat Strikers “Out-Enthused” As Lions Take The Spoils

Feb 10, 2018 by

The Brisbane Strikers’ NPL Queensland premiership defence was left stalled on its launching pad when Lions FC overpowered them to win 2-0 at Lions Stadium tonight to leave Strikers pointless on the league table after two games.

The competition newcomers, just a fortnight after going down 2-1 to Strikers in the final of the Silver Boot pre-season tournament, bounced back sharply from that experience to completely dominate a curiously flat Strikers outfit.

First half goals from Strikers old boy Chris Maher and midfielder Jesse Daley, the latter from the penalty spot, had Lions comfortable by half time. While Strikers showed momentary glimpses of form in a slightly improved second half, the extent of Lions’ dominance over ninety minutes was shown by the observation that Lions goalkeeper Luke Borean was little more than a bored spectator throughout.

The portents were bad for the premiers from the moment this morning that sharpshooter Rhys Meredith, who was slated to make his long-awaited return from injury, pulled out with a hamstring tweak.

That again left eighteen-year-old Zac Maltby leading a Strikers forward line that, Maltby excepted, turned out to be almost invisible as Lions all but choked the life out of a Strikers midfield that didn’t function efficiently enough to get the ball into forward areas.

The match was twenty-three minutes old when Strikers, not for the first time or the last, turned over possession inside their defensive third of the field near Lions’ left touchline. As Jesse Daley surged forward for Lions the visitors were short-handed at the back, leaving Maher free to receive Daley’s pass just outside their penalty area with the goal yawning as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archold came off his line in a fruitless attempt to narrow Maher’s shooting angles, but the former Brisbane Striker took his chance coolly, picking a spot to Archbold’s right and slotting home effortlessly with his right foot to give Lions the lead.

The goal produced little response from Strikers as Lions continued to press them into mistakes, keeping them mostly within their own half. With play continuing this way it came as little surprise when Strikers tried to clear their lines and the ball ricocheted back into their penalty area accompanied by shouts of “handball” from the Lions players. A penalty kick was the result, despite apoplectic denials from Strikers centre half Michael McGowan, who was apparently adjudged to have been the guilty party.

Daley then strode up to dispatch the penalty kick, sending Archbold the wrong way, and Lions were 2-0 up in the thirty-second minute.

While the awarding of the spot kick might have seemed harsh to the eleven out on the field for Strikers, a 2-0 lead was probably no less than Lions deserved on the balance of play and was a fair return for the sheer physical exertion they had been prepared to make to pressure a lethargic Strikers team into frequent errors.

As the half wore on and little changed it became apparent that nothing less than a half-time reorganization and a good, old-fashioned heart-to-heart in the dressing room was likely to shake Strikers out of that lethargy.

The early signs in the second half were a little more promising for them. Midfielder Michael Lee dispossessed a Lions defender shortly after the restart and squared a pass to Maltby, who evaded an attempted tackle before firing at Borean’s goal but skying his shot.

But Strikers’ inability to deal with Lions’ pressurizing tactics through the midfield, and their frequent turnovers of possession continued so they struggled to build any momentum. Instead, Lions could have gone 3-0 ahead with a quick counter-attack that saw Shaun Carlos flick a pass over his shoulder to release Maher. Maher closed in on goal once more, but this time Archbold’s charge off his line reaped dividends and Maher lifted his attempted finish high over the crossbar to let Strikers off the hook.

In the fifty-third minute Archbold came to his team’s rescue again, producing the save of the match, two-handed at point-blank range, to deny Lions midfielder Danny Kim, who was put clean through on goal by Jacob Alexander after an enterprising run by the fullback.

Midway through the half Strikers midfielder Jake McLean, who saw nothing but orange shirts in his field of vision for almost the entire contest, briefly found a moment to look up and spot Borean off his line to try his luck from thirty-five yards. But while the shot was on target Borean was able to scurry back and pull the ball out of the air before it dipped under his crossbar and a brief moment of excitement for Strikers supporters was gone.

Both sides made use of their substitutes’ bench, with Lions bringing on Jonti Richter, Liam Cosgrove and Duncan Stewart and Strikers introducing forward Josh Matcham, but none of the changes altered a contest that more or less meandered to a close as a workmanlike Lions side ran out of inspiration and Strikers simply never found theirs.

Maltby had a crack at goal from twenty yards that flew wide of the target and Matcham launched himself at a Sam Knight cross with similar lack of reward as Strikers managed a few late flurries. But the scoreline remained 2-0 to leave Lions with six points from a possible six and Strikers nought from the same.

Strikers football manager David Large admitted after the match that his team had been outplayed and struggled to put a finger on why his team had produced a game day performance that did not reflect in any way what he had seen in training.

“I thought they (Lions) were very good. They were very sharp, very quick,” Large said.

“The shame of it, for me, was that we trained exceptionally well through the week and we came off the paddock on Thursday night with a really positive feel. And we turned up (tonight) and I don’t know whether we didn’t have a game face on, or whether they just absolutely overpowered us.

“I thought they out-enthused us, certainly in midfield. I thought their midfield did a hell of a lot of work and we struggled at times to get out of a trot.”

A less charitable summation from a less knowledgeable reporter might be that Lions produced nothing more than a competent and committed performance – not a brilliant one – to run out comfortable winners.

By doing so they served Strikers notice that if the Perry Park team is suffering a post-premiership hangover they’d better be reaching for the Beroccas immediately. That’s because the visit of an in-form Moreton Bay United next weekend demands a Strikers team that is on its game and ready for a scrap.

There is work to be done!

Lions FC 2 [Maher 23, Daley 32 (pen)] v Brisbane Strikers 0

Photo: Michele Pitman

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