We Must Pick Up Points Against Lions: Large

Feb 09, 2018 by

Brisbane Strikers football manager, David Large, says his players will have to show up at Lions Stadium fully switched on for a battle if they are to make amends for last week’s opening round NPL Queensland loss by beating Lions FC in their own den.

Strikers were beaten 2-1 at home last Saturday by reigning champions Western Pride FC after dominating the first half and taking an early lead. According to Large, they cannot afford another fadeout against a powerful Lions outfit, who won their opening encounter against Brisbane City.

“I don’t think you can afford to drop points and I think that, if three points were massive last week, they are certainly bigger this week,” Large said, explaining it was important to ensure a positive mindset was maintained around Perry Park early in the season.

“That comes from a squad confidence thing, and even for (senior coach) Owen Baker and myself.

“It’s a big game for us and it’s probably one of those games where you’d rather be playing Lions than playing a supposed lower club, because we’re going to go in there with full intent on what we want to do and how we want to do it, and we’ve got to perform”.

While it is very early in the season to be talking about ‘crunch’ games, the NPL Queensland competition has generally not been kind to teams that start the season slowly. With two extra teams in the competition and a 26-round season this year, Large suggested that might change. But he insisted that the points up for grabs in Saturday’s clash with Lions are no less important as a consequence.

“I think that this year the competition has definitely strengthened, certainly in the top eight or nine clubs, and everybody is capable of taking points off one another,” Large said.

“If it pans out like I think, teams are going to lose points when they are expected to win them and it’s going to be more difficult to have a runaway leader throughout the year. I don’t think that will happen.

“But we definitely need to be picking up points now. It was my personal goal that we would try to get seven points out of our first three games, knowing how difficult the three games were. We may have to settle for six, so we can’t afford to slip up this week.

“We need to come with our heads in the right place and be ready for game day, no doubt about that”.

Large said, despite his team finishing without a point last week against Pride, he had not been overly disappointed with their performance.

“We didn’t do anything drastically too wrong,” he said. “The sequence of events hurt us, with (goalkeeper) Nathan (Archbold’s) mistake and I think that gave them (Pride) a few legs and a little bit of grit and determination.”

“But for me it was a matter of those things are going to happen, and we need to work our way through them. But what we didn’t do this week is change anything that we would have done if we had won. We’ve been true, tried and tested over the last couple of years under Kevin (A’Herne-Evans) and Sean (Lane) and we are doing nothing different to what they did, realistically.

“It was a matter of let’s put it to the back of our minds and get on with the task at hand, which is to bounce back against Lions this week”.

While both Strikers and Lions are strong through their defensive and midfield lines, both are currently playing without an experienced and recognised ‘number nine’, so conversion of scoring opportunities is more than ever likely to be the key to success on Saturday.

To that end, young forward Zac Maltby, whose performance last weekend for Strikers against Pride was highly rated by Large, is likely to receive some welcome support on Saturday in the shape of Rhys Meredith.

The prolific goal scorer (pictured), who missed almost the entirety of last season after rupturing knee ligaments, is ready to return to action after emerging unscathed from a game for the Strikers’ Under-20s.

“Meredith has come through his rehab now, he’s fully recovered, and he’ll be in the frame for the weekend,” Large said, without committing himself to whether Meredith would be in the starting eleven.

Lions are likely to rely on Shaun Carlos to lead their offensive line. The former midfielder, who returned to Lions last year after playing a season and half for Strikers, has been moved forward by Lions coach Warren Moon during the pre-season and is showing promise in his new role. He was on the scoresheet last week against Brisbane City.

Carlos is one of several former Strikers likely to feature for Lions on Saturday – skipper Matija Simic, midfielder Chris Maher and attacker Jonti Richter being others.

“We know their capabilities, we know what they’re good at, so we are well aware of their danger,” Large said.

“The only one that throws a spanner in the works is Carlos, because he’s not playing in a recognised position that we know of and we can only go on what we’ve seen – and he seems to be knocking a few trees down at the moment in that role, so he poses a threat” Large said.

“But at the end of the day I’ve absolute full confidence in our back line. It’s an experienced back line and they’ll deal with him”.

Despite being two of the most powerful clubs in Queensland, Strikers and Lions have seldom met on the field in competitive football. Those occasions have been restricted to two FFA Cup qualifiers that were both won by Strikers, while the teams have shared the spoils with a win apiece in the 2016 and 2018 finals of the Silver Boot pre-season tournament, with Strikers having won the most recent of these 2-1 a fortnight ago.

NPL Queensland Round 2: Lions FC v Brisbane Strikers, Lions Stadium, 6.00 pm Saturday, 10 February.

Photo: Michele Pitman

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