“We’re Ready For Sunday,” Says Henslee

Jun 02, 2016 by

With a place in the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 so close he can almost touch it, Brisbane Strikers centre half Greig Henslee says he cannot wait for Sunday’s final Brisbane Zone Westfield FFA Cup Preliminary clash with Flight Centre Premier League champions Lions FC at Lions Stadium.

Henslee (pictured) says he is confident that Strikers can again beat the club they ousted from the Cup qualifiers at the same stage two years ago at Perry Park, when they triumphed 3-2 on the back of a Matt Thurtell hat trick.

The reasons for Henslee’s confidence have nothing to do with lack of respect for the reigning BPL champions, nor with underestimating the task of beating them at their home ground. But they have everything to do with the recent form his team has been in.

“We all respect Lions and we all respect the FFA Cup – it’s a big game and there’s no getting away from that fact,” Henslee said this week.

“But I’m confident, and we are confident as a club and as a team. We are ready to go there and do a job and make sure that Brisbane Strikers are there for the next round of the draw”.

Henslee said one of the reasons he felt so upbeat about his team’s chances was its defensive record. Since mid-March Strikers have kept nine clean sheets in ten games in all competitions.

“Having a fairly slow start to the season and conceding six goals in the first four games was quite painful,” Henslee said. “So as a squad we’ve really looked to put that right and since then it’s been almost immaculate defending.

“At the moment, with the way that we’re set up with the back four and Seb (Usai) in behind us and ‘Gus’ (Michael Angus) in front, I always feel quite solid. I never feel like we’re going to get overrun by anyone.

“Kevin (A’Herne-Evans) is massive on working hard when we don’t have the ball and putting the opposition under pressure. So I never really feel like we are going to concede in open play”.

Coincidentally, Henslee nominated set pieces as Lions’ likely attacking focus on Sunday.

“Given that they have a few players in their team who can put in good corners and free kicks I would say that they will probably put us under pressure early on from set pieces and try getting the scraps in and around the box,” Henslee said.

“It’s just up to us defensively to counteract that – to stand up and be counted in critical moments of the game and defend our box.”

Henslee said he and his centre-half partner Jake Marshall were bracing themselves for a physical bombardment. But he expressed total confidence that Marshall, despite his youth, would be up for it.

“Jake’s a big boy,” Henslee said. “He only just turned eighteen a few weeks ago but he’s found himself at a big club in Brisbane, playing pressure games week in and week out – and none more so than the weekend with the prize of a spot in the last 32 of the FFA Cup.

“It’s such a good occasion for him to go out there and really make a name for himself on a big stage in front of a big crowd. Having seen Jake over the season, he’ll be fine. And I know I’m going to be ready for it”.

The Strikers could not ask for a better competitor to be leading their back line into a do-or-die Cup battle than Henslee, who has been there and done that in Cup games and grand finals, usually to good effect.

And the player himself gives the impression that nothing is more guaranteed to bring out the best in him than the prospect of another crucial game in front of a big and vocal audience.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges of the year so far – it’s a mid-season grand final,” said Henslee, almost salivating over the prospect.

“It’s certainly one that everyone around Brisbane wanted. You’ve got the top team in the BPL and one of the top teams in the NPL. And we’ve both been going pretty solid so I’m sure there will be a big crowd on Sunday”.

Henslee acknowledged, on the basis of his own experience, how tough it is to beat Lions on their own turf in big games. But he also said that he and his teammates, given that they must play an away tie, would rather play it at Lions Stadium than at most other grounds around Brisbane, where facilities for both players and spectators are not up to the same standard.

“They have good facilities there, good lights, good turf and there’s going to be a good crowd there so I don’t think the home and away (factor) is going to have too much effect on the final outcome,” Henslee said.

Strikers will go into the game at top strength except for their recent signing from Gold Coast City, winger Rees Duncan, who is ‘cup tied’ and therefore unavailable.

Kick-off at Lions Stadium is scheduled for 5.00 pm.

Photo: Michele Pitman

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