“Shell-shocked” Strikers Bounce Back To Put Seven Past Fire

Apr 15, 2018 by

Brisbane Strikers fullback Sam Knight said his team had been “shell-shocked into action” before running away with the contest in a 7-1 rout of competition battlers Sunshine Coast FC Fire at Sunshine Coast Stadium this afternoon.

Strikers trailed to a thunderous fifteenth minute shot from Fire’s Jasper Mellish before responding with first half goals from Ryan Palmer, Hiroki Omori and Trent Clulow and an own goal from Fire’s Harrison Bowen to take a 4-1 lead into half time.

Clulow added two more in the second half and Zach Maltby also got on the scoresheet as Strikers gained their sixth successive league win with the sort of lopsided scoreline expected against a club that has been struggling for several seasons to remain competitive at NPL Queensland level.

“To begin with, I thought we were a bit sloppy,” Knight was to say later. “It took that early goal for us to kick into gear, but we played some good stuff towards the end of the first half and carried on into the second half.

“But the last ten or fifteen minutes the game sort of lost its sting and it was just sort of ticking over”.

For those who were not there, Knight’s comments might seem strangely at odds with the scoreline. But they did accurately sum up the football fare dished up by the teams in a strange kind of game played on a strange kind of day.

Queensland’s endless summer ramped up another notch or two and turned on, in mid-April, a mid-January kind of heat. Add to that discomfort the kind of strong north-easterly breeze that Kawana often produces, and players from both teams struggled to maintain their energy and intensity.

“I think, to be honest, coming here it’s really tough because of the time of day that you’re playing at,” said Knight, who as a former Fire player became used to early afternoon kick-offs.

“Everyone (else) in the competition is used to playing at night time, so coming here at 2.00 pm is not fun at all. So I think that’s a big contributing factor to why the pace of the game wasn’t quite what we’re used to.

“But full credit to Fire. They put us under the pump for the first twenty-five minutes and we had to be shellshocked into action to take the game away from them.”

To be completely fair to Knight and his team mates, they hit the woodwork twice before Fire took their shock lead, and once thereafter before Palmer’s equaliser. And they missed a glut of chances that, had they been taken, could easily have seen the scoreline blow out to double figures.

Strikers midfielder Michael Lee rocked Fire’s crossbar with a rising left-footed shot from ten yards before sixty seconds had passed, and centre half Michael McGowan headed a Clulow free kick against the same woodwork in the third minute as Strikers threatened an early goal.

But Fire steadied and showed some glimpses of good football going forward, and in the fifteenth minute they reaped a reward in spectacular fashion as midfielder Mellish received a pass some twenty-five minutes out from Strikers’ goal. Mellish controlled the ball, looked up and sent a sizzling angled drive past Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archbold, who dived full stretch to his left but couldn’t get a touch to a shot that rocketed into the bottom far corner of his goal.

A short time later Maltby, burrowing away inside Fire’s penalty area with his back to goal, managed to outwit Fire’s defenders with a turn that saw him close in on burly Fire goalkeeper Shane Dix’s near post, but Maltby’s shot again cannoned away to safety, this time off the goalpost.

Frustrated, but with a growing sense of urgency, Strikers equalized in the twenty-seventh minute through Palmer. Skipper Michael Angus released Knight with a beatifully-weighted twenty-five metre pass and Knight clapped on the pace and squared a pass to Palmer, who regathered after a heavy first touch and sidefooted past Dix with his left foot.

Clulow buried a shot into Fire’s side netting from a Maltby pass as Strikers went in search of the lead, but in general the pace of the game was slowing and Strikers football manager, David Large, was tempted to his feet to urge his players to “lift it” as the half-hour ticked over.

They responded, but it took a horrible piece of misfortune for Fire defender Bowen to put them ahead in the thirty-third minute after Palmer had given Fire’s defence the slip to get to their byline. Palmer had Clulow arriving in the six-yard box but placed his pass behind the winger and Bowen, following up, unwittingly did the job Clulow had intended for himself – side-footing into the top corner of Fire’s goal.

Head in hands, Bowen lamented his ill luck as Strikers took a lead they built on three minutes later. A beautiful piece of telepathy between Omori and Clulow led to their third goal as Clulow spotted Omori’s diagonal run into Fire’s penalty area. Clulow twisted and clipped a floated left-footed pass that exquisitely judged the breeze to bring the ball down on to Omori’s foot. Omori then left Dix clueless as he darted around him to score into an empty net and it was 3-1.

That became 4-1 only a minute later as Omori, now running rampant, was left free out to the left side of Fire’s penalty area to collect a pass. He drove a low cross towards the six yard box that Dix should have gathered but didn’t. The ball spilled loose to Clulow, who blasted it home from close range.

The half time break was probably well received by both teams in the trying conditions. Strikers, however, were back out early, waiting for their opponents and looking to go on with the job.

Within four minutes of the restart, Fire turned the ball over deep inside their own half and Strikers pounced. Palmer collected a pass in centre field, drew a defender and slipped a pass to his left to Maltby, who closed in on goal and beat Dix with a left-footed shot from close range.

Eight minutes later, with a Fire attack breaking down, Lee caught their defenders square near the half way line with a short pass that sent Maltby racing towards goal. The young forward coolly drew Dix off his line before squaring to Clulow for the winger’s second goal and Strikers’ sixth.

Fire’s heads, while drooping somewhat in the circumstances, failed to drop completely and Archbold was forced into a sharp two-handed save when a diagonal pass from Fire skipper Chris Swain found midfielder Douglas Brown on the edge of Strikers’ penalty area. Brown pulled the trigger and produced a shot with considerable venom that Archbold did well to parry away to safety.

The scoring was completed in the sixty-seventh minute as Clulow clinched his hat-trick in emphatic fashion with a blistering twenty-five yard drive that left Dix with no chance. A double figure scored looked likely at this stage, but didn’t eventuate as Fire worked hard to prevent further damage, Dix made a couple of good saves, and Strikers ran out of grunt.

The three points gained by Strikers kept them in fourth position on the league table, while Fire remained anchored to its foot.

NPL Queensland Round 10, Sunshine Coast Stadium, 15 April, 2018: Sunshine Coast FC Fire 1 (Mellish, 15) v Brisbane Strikers 7 (Clulow 37, 57,66; Palmer 27; Bowen (o.g.) 33; Omori 35; Maltby 49).

Sunshine Coast FC Fire: Shane Dix (gk), Kyotaka Kakoi, Douglas Brown, Max Derveniza, Christopher Swain (c), Sam Standish, Shoichi Koshimuzu, Taj Hudson, Harrisson Bowen, Jasper Mellish, Rhys Jones. Sub: Matthew Gray. Coach: Seyit Demircan

Brisbane Strikers: Nathan Archbold (gk), Brock Messenger, Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Sam Knight, Ryan Palmer, Hiroki Omori, Trent Clulow, Zachary Maltby. Subs: Jack Stevens, Sebastian Scaroni. Coach: David Large

Photo: Michele Pitman

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