Ruthless Strikers Give Magpies Crusaders A Football Lesson

Aug 26, 2018 by
  1. The Brisbane Strikers ended their 2018 NPL Queensland season on a high last night with a swashbuckling 7-0 romp over Magpies Crusaders United at the Cleveland Showgrounds.

A hat-trick from teenage centre forward Josh Matcham – in his starting debut, no less – underlined the youngster’s potential while Zach Maltby, Sam Knight, substitute Greg Cheshire and centre half Greig Henslee completed the scoring in exactly the kind of performance Henslee would have wanted to mark his final match for the club.

It wasn’t that the visiting team from Mackay were poor.  It was more that they simply weren’t allowed to play by a grimly focused Strikers team that tore into them from the opening whistle with a fluency and ferocity that belied the game’s status as a dead rubber, with both teams out of the finals or relegation reckoning.

Within ten minutes the contest was effectively over.  Matchamopened the scoring by converting midfielder Jake McLean’s low cross with a first-time finish in the fifth minute. Fullback Sam Knight then combined with McLean two minutes later to open up the Magpies Crusaders’ defence on the right flank before burying his shot into the corner of the net, and thenMaltby finished off another sustained Strikers attack by scoring from close range three minutes later.

The pace, aggression, passing accuracy and movement off the ball of Matcham, Maltby, Braedon Steel, Trent Clulow and McLean as Strikers poured forward had simply been too much for a Magpies Crusaders defence that has been suspect all season and it would continue to torment them throughout the match.

Magpies Crusaders centre forward, captain and top scorer Michael Lyall saw very little of the ball in the first half.  Despite that, he was able to set attacking midfielder Warrick Jansen up for a shot on goal with a layoff in the seventeenth minute, but Jansen’s 20-yard effort sailed harmlessly over Strikers’ crossbar before Strikers resumed their assault inside the visitors’ half.

In the twenty-ninth minute Maltby’s searing pace proved too much for the retreating Magpies Crusaders defence. As Maltby dribbled into their penalty area he was upended from behind and Strikers were able to deliver on a pre-match decision to give Henslee the opportunity to score from the penalty spot.

Henslee made the most of it, slotting his penalty powerfully and low to Magpies Crusader goalkeeper Ryan Ramsden’s left.  The ball beat Ramsden’s dive to finish in the corner of the net to put Strikers 4-0 up – a scoreline that remained unchanged until half time.

“They were on to me before the game to take a free kick,”Henslee said with a smile after the game. “I said I can’t kick the ball further than twenty yards, but I’ll take a penalty.”

With the win more or less secured for his team, Henslee said Strikers’ half time team talk consisted mostly ofencouragement to keep playing for each other, for pride, and for the badge on their shirts.

But Henslee acknowledged that Magpies Crusaders came out strongly at the restart and pressed Strikers into error. With Magpies Crusader’s nuggety midfielder Liam Shipton, who displayed a good passing range and the ability to surge forward with the ball at his feet, driving the visitors on Strikers had to do some defending.

But Henslee and his centre half partner Michael McGowan gave Lyall and attacking midfielder Caleb Galea no peace, and the best the visitors could muster from their period of relative parity was Lyall’s deflected fifty-fifth minute shot that rattled the near post of goalkeeper Tomi Mesaric.

A minute later, Strikers broke the shackles again when Maltby accepted a pass near the half way line and surged past fullback Benjamin Mandall down Strikers’ right touchline. Maltby spotted Matcham making an early run, squared the ball straight to his feet and watched as Maltby controlled it, shook off his defender and coolly rounded Ramsden to tuck the ball inside his near post and put Strikers 5-0 up.

In the sixty-third minute Omori, moments after being chopped down in a scything tackle that earned Lyall a yellow card, chimed in to a Strikers attack to take the ball to the byline and cut back for Matcham, who side-footed home from close range to complete his hat-trick for 6-0.

Strikers’ best goal was arguably saved for last. It was to be contributed by substitute winger Cheshire in the seventy-ninth minute after Clulow, making a nuisance of himself as Magpies Crusaders played the ball through the middle just inside their own half, stole possession. Clulow slipped a pass out wide to his right, where Cheshire found himself unmarked some tenyards in from the touchline.  The winger then looked up to see Ramsden well off his line and produced an exquisite first-time chip that beat Ramsden’s flailing leap to nestle in the far corner of his goal.

Ramsden had a better moment just before full time, foiling Cheshire from close range when the winger looked certain to bag a brace. Meanwhile Strikers secured a clean sheet with some late desperate defending as Magpies Crusaders launched a couple of free kicks deep into Strikers’ crowded penalty area.

On balance, the 7-0 scoreline was no less flattering to Strikers than they deserved from a relentless and ruthless performance that, had it been reproduced more often this season, would surely have seen them playing finals football next weekend.

While Magpies Crusaders won respect and even some admirers in this, their debut NPL Queensland season, last night they received nothing but a drubbing and a football lesson.  It is difficult to suggest what they could take from their last game of the season other than the work of the videographer to show where they still need to improve.

Henslee tried to find words after the match to explain Strikers’ red-hot display.

“The energy was just so high,” he said. “It was obvious Magpies Crusaders just couldn’t contain the energy, the press, and the forward runs and the forward passes.

“We were putting good balls into the box and we were just being clinical. It’s fair to say that in other weeks you might miss all three (of our early chances) and it’s 0-0 and a different game. But when you have that ruthlessness it certainly makes the game run a lot easier, and we just ran over the top of them.

“We made Magpies Crusaders look like an average side, and we know they’re not an average side. They do have good players in their side and they’re well coached.”

Henslee said senior coach Owen Baker and his assistant David Provan would have received great encouragement from the performances of Matcham, Mesaric, Maltby and Steel – all of whom have come through Strikers’ youth development program – as they look forward to next season.

“They are the future of the club, and that was an opportunity for them,” Henslee said.

“Obviously they are young kids, and with young kids you get inconsistencies. But they have to give you that energy and I think tonight, with that energy and the good ball players that we have, there was a really good chemistry between the boys up top.

“It certainly bodes well for next year and I’m sure that little taste of first team football they’ve had over the last six or eight weeks should make them hungry to really push on for next season.”

NPL Queensland Round 26, Cleveland Showgrounds, Saturday 25 August: Brisbane Strikers 7 [Matcham 5, 57, 64; Knight 7; Maltby 10; Henslee 30 (pen); Cheshire 70] v Magpies Crusaders United 0.

Brisbane Strikers: Tomi Mesaric (gk), Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan, Hiroki Omori, Sam Knight, Jake McLean, Michael Angus (c), Braedon Steel, Trent Clulow, Zachary Maltby, Joshua Matcham. Subs: Ryan Palmer, Greg Cheshire, Michael Lee. Coach: Owen Baker

Magpies Crusaders United: Ryan Ramsden (gk), Warrick Jansen, Isaiah Kennell, Alan Jackson, Liam Shipton, Jeremy Green, Michael Lyall (c), Caleb Galea, Ezra Kennell, Benjamin Mandall, Pablo Perez. Subs: Jayden Salam, Jayden Connor, Kyle Markham. Coach: Carlos Garcia





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