Strikers Clear First FFA Cup Hurdle

Apr 10, 2018 by

Another strong second half showing from the Brisbane Strikers proved enough to send them through to the next round of FFA Cup qualifiers when they accounted for Brisbane Premier League side Albany Creek Excelsior 3-1 at Wolter Park tonight.

Goals from Hiroki Omori and Michael Lee – the latter from the penalty spot after an incident that saw a red card issued to Albany Creek skipper Declan Morris – put Strikers two goals up midway through the second half after the teams had gone into the half time break at 0-0.

Despite being a man down the plucky home side hit back immediately and threatened to make a game of it with a deflected goal to Adam Naddei.

But, having fallen at their first Cup hurdle at the hands of Rochedale Rovers last year, Strikers were in no mood to let it happen again. They steadied to score a late goal through Ryan Palmer to make sure of the result and will now await Thursday’s draw to learn their fifth round opponents.

The scoring action happened after a strangely tepid first half in which a subdued crowd might have wondered if they had shown up at the wrong ground to watch a Cup tie.

The traditional blood and thunder of Cup football simply failed to materialize as the home side fell back behind the ball and waited for Strikers to try to break them down, while Strikers failed to lift their tempo in possession of the ball enough to do so.

Strikers began brightly enough, creating a couple of early opportunities, and Albany Creek needed a desperate intervention in their own six yard box in the sixth minute by centre half Sean Lewis, who slid in while facing his own goal to deflect a cross from Zach Maltby over his crossbar as a yellow-shirted attacker arrived at the back post.

But the bright opening by the visiting players faded to a more pedestrian pace as they patiently but ineffectively tried to break down the massed ranks of red and black shirts who were clearly basing their game plan on containment and counter-attack.

Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archbold cut an isolated figure inside his own half as the action continued and he had no saves to make in the opening forty-five minutes. By the same token, Albany Creek goalkeeper Matthew Lugo was not overworked either, despite seeing yellow shirts camped around his penalty area for much of the time, as Morris and Lewis shut down most of what came through the middle and dealt with the crosses on the few occasions that Strikers got behind their fullbacks.

Lugo made a good save at close range in first half stoppage time, blocking a fierce drive by midfielder Michael Lee at his near post, but the 0-0 scoreline at half time was a fair reflection on what had transpired.

The second half, however, offered more exciting fare. Strikers lifted the pace of their ball movement, forcing Albany Creek to scramble more in defence, while the home side also discovered some ambition and had some promising moments in front of Strikers’ goal.

Maltby’s aggression and determination to unsettle Lewis and Morris in a scrap for a bouncing ball forced an early chance for Omori to shoot at goal, but the fullback’s volley rippled the side netting instead of the back of the net as Strikers sent a signal that they intended winning the game within regulation time.

Albany Creek responded with an attack that saw a flurry of shots at Strikers’ goal. Archbold made a sharp save as the ball ricocheted around just outside his six yard box and was lashed goalward by an Albany Creek attacker and, as the ball came loose, Cameron Millar seized on the rebound and had the goal at his mercy only to drive his snapshot wide of the target as Strikers survived an anxious moment.

Only a minute later a through-ball on the counter attack played Millar in as Greig Henslee and Michael McGowan gave chase and Archbold was again called upon to parry away the shot as Strikers continued to live dangerously.

But just when the home team seemed to be gaining momentum they were caught square at the other end as a pass on the hour found Omori galloping clear down Strikers’ left flank. With team mates pouring towards Albany Creek’s six yard box in support Omori shaped to cross, but his delivery was hit with such pace that it surprised Lugo, who could only palm it into his own net.

Whether Omori intended to cross or to shoot was a moot point as Strikers celebrated their first goal in the FFA Cup for 2018 before going in search of a second.

The second goal duly arrived from the penalty spot after Henslee, who had stayed up after a Strikers free kick was initially headed clear, suddenly found himself with the ball at his feet inside Albany Creek’s penalty area with only Lugo in front of him. Henslee bore down on goal and was just about to pull the trigger when Morris unceremoniously bundled him over. A penalty was the obvious result, as was the red card to Morris who was on ‘last man’ duty when he committed the offence.

Lee, back in Strikers’ starting lineup in place of Jake McLean after missing two games with injury, strode up to confidently despatch the spot kick past Lugo and Strikers had a two-goal buffer with fourteen minutes left to play.

Only one of those minutes elapsed before ten-man Albany Creek snatched a goal back through Naddei, whose driven shot from a wide position just inside Strikers’ penalty area appeared to take a deflection to beat Archbold.

At 2-1 the home side, despite their numerical inferiority, had hope. But that hope was snuffed out with five minutes remaining when, with Albany Creek pushing forward and losing possession, Trent Clulow picked out a run from Palmer with a pass that played the midfielder in one-on-one with Lugo.

Palmer closed in on goal and dribbled around Lugo, who managed to get a touch to the ball but could not prevent Palmer from regaining possession and scoring with his left foot into the empty net to secure passage through to the next round for the National Premier Leagues club.

Afterwards, Strikers skipper Michael Angus acknowledged the result had been hard-won and gave credit for that to the home team.

“It’s always a challenge, a few days after you’ve played, with mid-weekers,” Angus said. “We knew that it would be, being away from home and against a well-structured side. They obviously knew how they wanted to play against us. They had a game plan and credit to them – they are a hard-working team.

“I guess they knew we were going to have a lot of the ball and they would have to pick their moments. We knew we just had to get down to our game and keep a tempo to the game. In the end we just sort of slowly created a bit more space and chances for ourselves and came away with it.”

FFA Cup Round 4: Albany Creek 1 (Naddei 77) v Brisbane Strikers 3 [Omori 59, Lee 76 (pen), Palmer 85.

Photo (Michele Pitman): Ryan Palmer dribbles around Albany Creek goalkeeper Matthew Lugo for Strikers’ match-clinching third goal.

Match Reports, News

About the author

Marketing Brisbane Strikers