Stewart Wins It From The Spot As Strikers Go Top

Aug 05, 2017 by

The Brisbane Strikers clawed their way to the top of the PlayStation ® 4 NPL Queensland table with a doggedly determined 1-0 win over Redlands United FC at Perry Park tonight.

A twelfth-minute penalty converted by top scorer Jeremy Stewart bagged Strikers the all-important three points that took them above Gold Coast City – for a day, at least – in a scrappy encounter that almost looked out of place at Perry Park, where the home side is unbeaten this season.

But while most of Strikers’ home ground displays this year have been characterised by fluency and rhythm in possession of the ball, this was more of an ugly duckling of a performance that owed much more to grit and determination to see out the result against stubborn opponents than it did to the qualities that please football purists.

Redlands were hardly a purist’s dream either, as they dug in to resist the home team and offered little that truly threatened Strikers goalkeeper Zac Speedy. But after going behind early Redlands hung on grimly and did enough over the closing stages to have the home team’s fans biting their fingernails at times.

The visitors began the game in positive fashion, combining well early. A speculative ball over the top of the Strikers’ three-man backline brought about the first scoring opportunity when defenders Greig Henslee, Jake Marshall and Speedy got their wires crossed as the ball bounced towards Strikers’ penalty area.

Defenders and goalkeeper tumbled to the turf and left Redlands’ lone chaser, winger Reuben Douglas, with almost a Steven Bradbury moment as the goal was left vacant. Fortunately for the home team, however, Reuben’s attempt to lob Strikers’ remaining defensive cover ended in failure when his lob drifted wide of goal with Speedy looking on.

Strikers then began piecing together their passing game and fashioned an opportunity for midfielder Jake McLean to shoot from twenty yards. McLean’s shot was hit hard and well but was parried away by the diving James Edgar in Redlands’ goal.

From the ensuing play, however, having regathered possession Strikers went forward into Redlands’ eighteen-yard box and when midfielder Ethan Docherty was sent tumbling by a clumsy challenge by a Redlands defender referee Trent Sleeman had no hesitation in awarding Strikers a penalty.

Stewart strode up to take the spot kick and struck the ball high and almost centrally, but crucially on target, as Edgar dived to his left and the back of the net rippled to confirm Stewart’s fifteenth goal in his first season for Strikers.

There was little excitement in either team’s penalty area for the remainder of the first half, which was played in cagey fashion by two teams who probed away at each other without finding the inspiration or imagination necessary to prise open the opposing defence.

That said, Strikers wingback Hiroki Omori had by far the best opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking over before the half time break, arriving in Redlands’ penalty area to get on the end of a rare flowing passing movement by the home team. But as Edgar advanced rather tentatively off his line to close down Omori’s shooting angles the Japanese import uncharacteristically blazed his shot wide of the near post just when the visitors must have been expecting to go two down.

Redlands, for their part, fought hard and with some success to ensure a good percentage of possession and showed glimpses of promise in building up play through their midfield. But their efforts generally broke down short of Strikers’ eighteen-yard box and Speedy was not brought into serious shot-stopping action before Sleeman blew for half time.

The second half saw Strikers going through their attacking gears with more conviction against more stubborn defending from Redlands, as the home town strove to gain the two-goal buffer that looked likely to be more than enough to clinch the three points.

But chances came and went for Strikers as both Stewart and fullback Sam Knight struck the frame of Edgar’s goal with powerful shots and Edgar produced a good smothering save to deny Omori from close range.

Michael Lee, introduced to the fray as a substitute after missing last week’s win over Northern Fury, also missed a chance to kill off the game for the home team, firing a shot from close range across goal as he seized on the scraps from a corner kick.

And Stewart’s eighty-seventh minute effort to catch Edgar off his line from almost forty-five yards deserved better than to end up on the roof of Redlands’ net as the game inched towards a finishing line that arrived far too slowly for the liking of the home team’s nervy supporters.

The quartet of missed opportunities for Strikers meant that Redlands, if they could only fashion a decent scoring chance of their own, could still deny Strikers the win they were so desperate for. The swarming attentions of Jake Marshall, Omori, Henslee, Knight, Lachlan Weier and Strikers skipper Michael Angus had given Redlands’ forward line of Feli Sheriff, Reuben and Alexander Warrilow little room to breathe, let alone flourish, and substitute forwards Matthew Gordon and Luke Hendrix fared little better.

But right on cue, in the third minute of stoppage time, the visitors at last created an opportunity to cross from the grandstand touchline towards Strikers’ six-yard box, where Redlands skipper Michael Ryan climbed high for a header. Strikers supporters had their hearts in their throats as Ryan made contact, but Speedy was well-positioned and alert and gathered in Ryan’s bouncing header with relative ease to ensure his team got the job done.

The win saw Strikers climb above Gold Coast City courtesy of a superior goals differential – a position they occupy for the first time this season with two rounds left to play. But Gold Coast City can reclaim the top rung on the league ladder if they win or draw against Brisbane Olympic FC at Goodwin Park tomorrow.

After the game Strikers coach Sean Lane agreed the three points had been earned by a gutsy and disciplined performance by his team, rather than a fluent one.

“Absolutely,” said Lane. “Those are two words that sum it up perfectly. We’ve been in situations this year when we’ve lost games and drawn games towards the end of tight matches so I was really pleased with the fact that, despite not playing particularly well, we ground it out”.

Lane said that at half time he made one tactical change to try to drive home Strikers’ advantage in the second half.
“The only thing that, for me, needed tweaking was that I thought our fullbacks were a little bit too deep when we were attacking,” Lane said.

“We tried to change that at half time and I think both “Hero”(Omori) and Sammy caused problems for them in the second half. Sammy hit the post and Hero was involved in almost everything that we did going forward, so I think that slight tweak made a fair amount of difference.”

Lane paid tribute to the fighting spirit shown by Redlands after a tumultuous week at the club.

“It’s been well documented that they’ve had some trouble at the club this week and what the coaching staff have obviously done is get the everybody together for a sort of backs-to-the-wall time and they’ve produced a really stoic performance,” Lane said.

“They were hard to break down and they never gave up. They kept trying and they had their own couple of chances there towards the end, so I was really pleased that we picked up the three points.”

PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues Queensland – Round 20
Saturday, August 5
Perry Park

Brisbane Strikers FC 1 (Jeremy STEWART 12′ pen)
Redlands United FC 0

Brisbane Strikers: Zac Speedy (gk), Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Ethan Docherty, Michael Angus (c), Jeremy Stewart, Sam Knight, Lachlan Weier, Hiroki Omoi, Luke Marsh. Subs: Michael Lee, Greg Cheshire. Coach: Sean Lane

Redlands United: James Edgar (gk), Michael Ryan (c), Adam Chandler, Jake Sherwood, Alexander Warrilow, Carlton Westerdale, Toby Hughes, Feli Sheriff, Mikey Dalton, Sam Roper, Reuben Douglas. Subs: Luke Hendrix, Matthew Gordon, Dylan Hostland. Coach: Nick Dibbs

Referee – Trent SLEEMAN
Assistant – Renae COGHILL
Assistant – Zijad AHMETOVIC

Photo: Michele Pitman

Match Reports, News

About the author

Media Liaison, Brisbane Strikers Mob: 0432 085 222