Brisbane Strikers coach Sean Lane has challenged his players to maintain their intensity for tomorrow’s PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Round 7 clash with South West Queensland Thunder at Perry Park.
Four days after they destroyed Sunshine Coast FC Fire 9-0, Strikers will back up against Thunder looking for their first back-to-back wins of the season as they try to chase down the leading pack of teams.
While critics might point to the shortcomings of an obviously struggling Fire team as one of the reasons for the lopsided scoreline on Tuesday, that would give scant credit to a Strikers team that was
an irresistible yellow tide, displaying relentless aggression that overwhelmed a vulnerable opponent.
After taking a light training session on Thursday night Lane said he wanted his players to reproduce that intensity against Thunder, who are currently running last in the league one point behind Fire.
While not expecting a repeat of Tuesday’s lopsided scoreline, Lane said it was not unrealistic to expect his players to reproduce their midweek form and that he had urged them to strive to do so.
“They are certainly fit enough to have a repeat effort even though there’s a short tunaround – I have no question marks about their physical ability to do it,” Lane said.
“It’s about mentally whether they want to do it”.
Given their cellar dweller status, Thunder are theoretically just as vulnerable as Fire. But their ladder position could be deceptive. While Thunder have begun the season poorly in terms of results they have been competitive in most of their six games to date, often leading in games but failing to drive home their advantage.
Thunder have retained most of the players who in 2016 gave them their best season to date as they finished in eighth place with twenty-six points.
They certainly have players who can damage opposition defences. Mustafa Jafari and Majok Piok, to name just two, both know where the goals are and Jafari’s speed combined with Piok’s gangling physical presence are enough to cause any PS4 NPL defence problems.
Lane suggested his team would be foolish to take much notice of Thunder’s present league position.
“Last year we had two good games against them,” Lane said. “They were certainly well organised, physical and dangerous going forward. Whilst we beat them, both games were difficult.
“While they’ve had some changeover in personnel I’ve expected them to be just as difficult and just as competitive. I am a little surprised that they are where they are (on the league table). I think it’s a matter of time before they turn it around”.
Thunder’s appointment this week of former Italian Serie A player and professional coach Francesco Zanoncelli as their new gaffer might be the catalyst to do exactly that.
But probably the first thing Zanoncelli will need to focus on is Thunder’s defensive structure. His players have conceded fifteen goals in their six games and any team that leaks on average more than two goals per game will struggle to win.
On the evidence of Strikers’ play this season, Thunder’s defending should receive a severe test on Saturday. Strikers went through their attacking gears in impressive fashion on Tuesday, suggesting that the hard work they’ve done to refashion their attack since centre forward Rhys Meredith was sidelined with injury is bearing fruit.
The combinations between new centre forward Jake McLean and attacking midfielder Michael Lee, and between the wide players on each side of the Strikers’ formation, are looking better with every game.
But it is the contribution of one of the less experienced players that has really caught Lane’s eye.
“Young Ryan Palmer (pictured) has come in and he’s slotted in really, really well,” Lane said. “It’s only been a few games but he certainly hasn’t looked out of place. He was probably one of our best players on Tuesday night.
“I’ve seen him grow up and have coached him since he was fifteen or sixteen years old in the junior teams, and what he has brought is a bit more aggression to his game. He’s always been a really good player, but he’s just filling out and he has brought an aggressive side to his game that had been missing and he’s reaping the benefits”.
PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Round 7: Brisbane Strikers v SWQ Thunder, Saturday 8 April, 6.00 pm at Perry Park.