Silver Boot Final A Sign Of Things To Come

Feb 23, 2013 by

A pre-season final might be beckoning for the Brisbane Strikers, in the shape of Sunday’s Silver Boot tournament decider against Olympic FC, but as far as the club’s coaching staff are concerned, the emphasis remains very much on “pre-season” rather than “final”.

After disposing of Brisbane Premier League opposition in Wolves FC and Peninsula Power over the last week and a half on the way to the final, the Strikers find themselves up against a fellow National Premier League club in the tournament’s showpiece.

And to add a little bit of spice to the occasion, while the new second-tier competition is yet to have a ball kicked in anger there is history between the two clubs. Olympic played two seasons against the Strikers in the QSL before opting out of that league and were among their strongest rivals for honours. Indeed, Olympic’s last season in the QSL (in 2009) saw them lead the competition coming into the home straight of the season, only to be pegged back by the Strikers in the race for the premiership and then dumped from the finals in a memorable semi-final, beaten 3-2 at Perry Park after leading 2-0.

Back then, it seemed nothing motivated Olympic more than the opportunity to beat the Strikers and their head-to-head record against them was good before their crucial last two fixtures. The Strikers would be foolish to expect anything less than a high level of desire from Olympic on Sunday.

Not that any of this is exercising the mind of Strikers assistant coach Graham Harvey (pictured), who insisted on Friday that the Strikers’ thoughts were focused on the NPL season starting in a fortnight.

“Our focus is on ensuring that all of our players are as fit and as ready as they can be for the start of the season”, Harvey said when asked what approach the Strikers would take into the match. “We’ve got a tough opening four games and we have to be ready to play from the first week of the season”.

One of the Strikers’ opponents in those opening games will be….you guessed it….Olympic FC! But Harvey was loathe to buy into the theory that a win over them on Sunday would give the Strikers an advantage when the two teams meet next in the NPL on 23 March.

“I’m not really sure if it helps”, Harvey said. “Peninsula Power might have thought they had a psychological advantage over us after beating us a few weeks ago, but it didn’t do them any good this week”.

Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over Peninsula Power came on the back of a very convincing team performance, but Harvey said that was no guarantee that the players who featured in that game would necessarily do so again. Instead, a training session on Saturday would go a long way towards determining who pulls on the Strikers’ playing strip on Sunday.

One player, however, who definitely will not play is former Whitsunday Miners midfielder Clark Bradford, who came on as a second half substitute on Wednesday and helped to set up the Strikers’ second goal, before having to leave the field with a rolled ankle. That injury has forced Bradford out of action for two or three weeks – a cruel twist (no pun intended) of fate for a player who had only been trialling with the club for ten days and needed as much time on the field as possible to push his case for inclusion in the squad.

However, Bradford’s misfortune might pave the way for an early return to action for Nick Robinson, who arrived back in Brisbane from an unscheduled visit to England for family reasons on Tuesday and was on hand to witness the Strikers’ win over Peninsula Power.

Other key selection decisions for the Strikers will revolve around who to include in the forward line. New signing Josh McVey impressed up front in his first game on Wednesday, but he has not had much training time since arriving at Perry Park. The coaching staff will need to balance his encouraging form against the need to ensure they do not overload him physically, while also weighing up the need for young striker Chris Roulston to get competitive minutes into his legs and looking for the best ways to utilize Josh Taylor, whose workrate has been excellent but who still needs a goal or two to boost his confidence.

Meanwhile, Olympic go into the final high on confidence after thrashing Moreton Bay United 7-1 in their semi-final. Moreton Bay fielded an under-strength lineup that night, but on the basis that you can only take on and beat the eleven players put in front of you, Olympic will have been more than happy with the way they went about the job of doing just that.

Having recruited strongly in the off-season with the obvious intention of being one of the teams to beat in the NPL, Olympic will be looking to make a statement – to themselves as well as to their opponents. That being the case, the Silver Boot final should provide a good sneak preview for football fans of the strength and footballing methods of two teams who will be aiming high when the new competition kicks off its inaugural season in two weeks’ time.

The final will kick off at Lions Stadium at 7.00 pm, preceded by the third v fourth place play-off between Moreton Bay United and Peninsula Power at 5.00 pm.

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