With the result of Wednesday’s Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 draw still fresh in their minds the Brisbane Strikers fly to Townsville on Saturday on a mission to chase down three of the four points still required to assure themselves of their first PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland premiership.
As enticing as thoughts of playing against the likes of Bruno Fornaroli, Luke Bratan and even Tim Cahill in the Cup might be, Strikers must find a way to refocus on core business on Saturday. There is simply too much at stake to be caught daydreaming.
Having climbed to the top of the PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland table with last weekend’s 2-1 win over FNQFC Heat, their task at the Townsville Sports Reserve is to defeat Northern Fury FC and stay at least two points clear of Heat going into the last game of the regular season.
That seems a modest objective, given that Fury have yet to win a game this season and are a massive forty points behind Strikers on the league table. But Townsville has been a miserable hunting ground for Strikers recently, with a 2-5 defeat last year and a 0-4 loss in 2014 hinting that Saturday’s task might more difficult than it looks on paper.
Strikers skipper Michael Angus (pictured) is one title-chasing footballer who says he will be taking nothing for granted on Saturday.
“It’s like every game,” Angus said on Wednesday night. “We will take it as seriously as any other game. The preparation will be exactly like we would for anyone.
“If you look at last year, we went up there and didn’t get a very good result and it was an important game within the league (context) as well. So there will be no complacency or anything like that from us.
“We know how important the game is and if we can prepare in the right way, and worry about us and do what we need to do, then by all means we can hopefully go up there and get the result”.
While Strikers will give Fury the same respect they give to any other team in the league, Angus insisted that last year’s result in Townsville will not haunt his team.
“The difference from last year is that we’ve had a week to prepare properly for it,” Angus said. “Last year was a quick turnaround from an FFA Cup game (the 3-4 midweek loss in Melbourne to Hume City FC), so we’ll be fit and raring to go.
“But we obviously know the importance of it and we’ve got a bit more experience this year in our squad that can deal with those sorts of situations – which I think has shown this year”.
Strikers will not be dealing with fatigue issues on their visit to Townsville this time and have a fully fit squad to choose from – a luxury that, at the business end, they have not enjoyed over three previous PlayStation 4 NPL campaigns.
Indeed, so strong is the overall fitness level of the squad that Strikers have recently been introducing the likes of Jonti Richter and Chris Maher from the bench – often to devastating effect late in games.
With FNQFC Heat’s game in Brisbane against last year’s premiers Moreton Bay United Jets kicking off an hour earlier, Strikers could be in a position to know by early in their second half if Heat have dropped any points. If they have, a victory for Strikers will guarantee them the premiership, given their ten goals superior differential over Heat.
Angus, however, said he and his teammates would probably prefer to go into the contest without knowing how the Jets v Heat fixture was panning out.
“It’s in our hands, so I’d much rather be prepping and worrying about our game and not really knowing about it, to be honest,” Angus said.
“In the past we’ve thought about other results a little bit too much and it’s come back to bite us a bit. But I think we’ve learned from previous experiences and this year we’ve got the players who’ve gone through that from last year and have more experience with that side of things.
“The ‘gaffer’ has made it pretty clear that we need to go and do a job and we’ll be preparing for our game making sure we get the job done.”
Kick-off at the Townsville Sports Reserve is scheduled for 7.00 pm.
Photo: Michele Pitman