The Brisbane Strikers will go into the Easter recess in third position on the PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland league table after notching their first back-to-back win of the season in beating South West Queensland Thunder 3-0 at Perry Park last night.
Backing up four days after destroying Sunshine Coast FC Fire 9-0, Strikers again cruised to victory on the strength of a scintillating first half performance that saw all three goals posted within the opening half-hour.
While Thunder steadied in the second half and Strikers ran out of steam, only an outstanding display of shot stopping by Thunder goalkeeper Anthony Passante prevented a much more emphatic scoreline in favour of the home team.
Strikers coach Sean Lane stuck with the same starting eleven who did the midweek demolition job on Fire and once again they had the three points sewn up for him by half time as Thunder were swept aside.
Midfielder Michael Lee got the scoring underway with a piece of individual brilliance in the ninth minute, collecting a pass on the left side of the pitch and drifting inside and past a defender before picking out the far top corner of Passante’s goal with a strike of laser precision.
Four minutes later Strikers midfielder Ryan Palmer started things for the second goal when he won a tackle in the centre circle and spread a pass wide to Jeremy Stewart, who beat a couple of Thunder defenders on a run down the right touchline. Stewart finished off his run with an accurate low cross towards Thunder’s penalty spot, where Greg Cheshire arrived first to apply a clinical finish.
At 2-0 Strikers already looked comfortable, but their goalkeeper Zac Speedy had to be alert in the eighteenth minute to dive to his right and hold two-handed a firmly-struck direct free kick from Thunder forward Majok Piok.
But as Strikers continued to pour forward in numbers, combining beautifully on occasions with seemingly effortless one-touch passing, they proved too strong for Thunder’s defence again in the twenty-eighth minute.
Once more it was Lee doing the damage, working in tight spaces with a team mate near the corner flag before outsmarting three defenders (pictured) to dribble to the byline. Looking up, Lee picked out midfielder Jake McLean’s run into Thunder’s penalty area with a pass that McLean guided right-footed, first time, into Thunder’s goal via a deflection off a defender positioned near the far post.
3-0 up, in total control in general play and creating chances thick and fast, Strikers appeared to have a complete stranglehold on the contest and a scoreline similar to their effort against Fire looked feasible.
And indeed it might have been had Passante not stepped up for the visitors with three brilliant saves to deny fullback Hiroki Omori in the thirty-second minute, as well as Stewart and Cheshire within seconds of each other just before half time.
Passante’s heroics, and a narrow miss from an angled shot by Stewart, ensured Thunder still had a theoretical chance of making a contest of things in the second half. New Thunder coach, Francesco Zanoncelli, had already made two substitutions, bringing on winger Matthew Williams for Kimba Kibombo and Mustafa Jafari for the injured Piok, and he emptied his bench at the break to substitute centre half Ben Barrowclift with Yoshihiro Sakurai.
The eleven remaining Thunder players did a good job for their club in the second half, stonewalling a Strikers team who, perhaps not surprisingly with the points in the bag, appeared to lose momentum and over-complicate their play as the match wore on.
Lane tried to freshen things up, bringing Luke Marsh, Sam Ball and Finn Lane on for Stewart, Cheshire and Palmer, but the fizz had gone out of the home side’s game and, on the few occasions when they did pull the trigger, Passante was again in brilliant form.
Marsh was left feeling particularly frustrated by the Thunder custodian’s reflexes as Passante kept out two close-range shots from him, as well as another cheeky effort from Stewart, who tried to chip him from twenty yards but watched on as Passante clawed the ball away from the top corner of his goal.
The second half eventually drifted away without further addition to the scoreline. While some Strikers supporters might have felt short-changed by their team’s second half performance, a fair assessment of their team’s overall home form would recognise that three games for three wins, sixteen goals scored and none conceded has been a very convincing return that provides great encouragement for the rest of the season.
Certainly Strikers skipper Michael Angus, who again orchestrated his team’s performance with crisp and accurate distribution from the base of midfield, said after the match that his team was taking so much momentum into Easter it was almost disappointing to have the break.
“We’re coming off two good wins and, not only that, it’s the way that we’ve played in those two games’, Angus said.
“Alright, the intensity in the second half tonight levelled out a little bit but there’s massive, massive improvement from where we were at the start of the year. The big challenge for us is that that’s the benchmark now, and we have to push on and make sure that we’re doing that week in and week out.
“It’s probably a little bit of a shame that we’re not playing and getting on the park straight away. I think the ideal scenario would have been that we have a quick turnaround and we’re on the pitch again to keep this run going”.
In other key Round 7 results Gold Coast City defeated Northern Fury 2-0 in Townsville last night to go to the top of the league table on sixteen points, one ahead of Brisbane Olympic who beat Brisbane City 3-2 on Friday. Strikers’ win took them to thirteen points, two behind Olympic and one ahead of Fury.
PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues Queensland – Round 7
Saturday, April 8
Brisbane Strikers 3 (Michael LEE 9′, Gregory CHESHIRE 13′, Jake MCLEAN 28′)
SWQ Thunder 0
Referee: David Wiebe
Assistant Referee 1: Mohammad Alipour
Assistant Referee 2: Brad Burton
Fourth Official: Max Crane
Brisbane Strikers: Zac Speedy (gk), Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Michael Lee, Michael Angus, Jake McLean, Jeremy Stewart, Sam Knight, Greg Cheshire, Hiroki Omori, Ryan Palmer. Subs: Luke Marsh, Fintan Lane, Sam Ball. Coach: Sean Lane.
South West Queensland Thunder: Anthony Passante (gk), Bailey Salisbury, Keagan Sheridan, Jacob Bigby, Kimba Kibombo, Benjamin Barrowclift, Thomas Fanning, Majok Piok, Emmanuel Philip, Anthony Grant, Nicholas Edwards. Subs: Matthew Williams, Mustafa Jafari, Yoshihiro Sakurai. Coach: Francesco Zanoncelli
Photo: Michele Pitman