Strikers’ Under-20s Aiming For Finals Upset

Aug 31, 2018 by

Brisbane Strikers fans deprived of seeing their senior team in finals football for the first time since 2004 can still get some 2018 finals action by following their Under-20s team, who conversely will gain their first experience of it on Saturday.

The Brisbane Strikers’ Under-20s are taking their season where the senior team could not go this weekend – into the semi-finals of the 2018 NPL Queensland season – when they take on the might of premiers Brisbane City at Corporate Travel Management Stadium for the right to play either Olympic FC or Western Pride in the grand final.

And while the league table suggests a comfortable win for City, who finished nineteen points ahead of fourth-placed Strikers, the chance to knock City off their pedestal in finals football is one that has the Strikers team excited.

NPL Queensland football at junior and youth levels has not previously offered a finals competition. Its emphasis has been on skills development, with finals football deemed unnecessary, but Strikers’ attacker Joel Anich said on Thursday the players were welcoming this season’s experiment with a finals series.

“It’s a great opportunity for the boys,” Anich said. “We’ve been playing our career from Under-12s upwards in NPL and always looking for a shot at finals.

“It’s great to finally have that chance. The season is long but, as long as we’re in the top four, having that opportunity to knock off City as premiers is great for us and (a chance) for the boys to step up.”

Brisbane City have won both previous games played between the clubs this season, prevailing 5-2 in Round 9 at Perry Park before overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in stoppage time at Corporate Travel Management Stadium a month ago.

But while Strikers were on the wrong end of the scoreline on both occasions, they were in with a chance for long periods of time and Anich said the 3-2 loss in Round 22 left the Strikers’ boys wanting more.

“It will definitely bring the fire out in the boys,” Anich said.

“It was a tight game and I thought we did have that one. We played really well and it was a shame we didn’t get up. But in training everyone has been talking about it and about finally having another crack at them. Everyone’s excited.

“They (City) are definitely a great team. The times we’ve played them they’ve been really strong. They’ve been really tight games, and I know when they’ve played other teams they’ve been really tight.

“But I think we’ve prepared well. We’ve had a strong last couple of months and I think we are ready to take on a team that has been as successful as they have this season.”

Strikers senior coach, Owen Baker, also believes Strikers’ Under-20s have what it takes to spring an upset on Saturday.

“Over the course of the year they’ve shown as a group that they’ve got lots of goals in them and lots of goal scorers,” Baker said.

“Joshua Matcham has scored sixteen in the season, and Joel Anich thirteen, so we know there’s boys in there who have got good goal scoring form and you obviously hope, as a player, that in the big game you get the opportunity to do the same.

“Brisbane City have been a quality outfit in the Under-20s this year and with the semi-final being at their home ground I am sure that they feel that they have the edge.

“But it’s finals football and we know that the best team on the day will win. I’ve watched the boys train well tonight in preparation for it and we just hope that we turn up on the day and our plan of attack works.”

Baker said Strikers would have to nullify Brisbane City on their flanks, where they have quick wingers who deliver quality balls into the penalty area for their powerful forwards.

“If we can deal with that, then it will give us a platform to go on and play our game,” Baker said.

“But it’s a final and you know you are going to have to be good all over the park and sometimes have a bit of luck on your side.”

Both teams can call upon players with substantial first-team experience to play in the semi-final if necessary.  For Strikers, the mid-season form slump of the senior team provided opportunities for goalkeeper Tomi Mesaric and attacker Braedon Steel to have extended spells with the senior team, while Matcham will bring form and confidence into the gameafter scoring a hat-trick in his senior starting debut last weekend.

But City have similar stories to tell with the likes of attackers Max Mikkola, Owain Thomas and Paul Falso, so there is likely to be high levels of confidence and senior team potential in both teams.

That should work in favour of supporters. Those who turn up for a look at the action should be in for both an exciting game and an extended look into the onfield future of both clubs.

NPL Queensland Under-20s Semi-Final: Brisbane City v Brisbane Strikers, Corporate Travel Management Stadium, Newmarket, Saturday, 1 September 2018. Kick-off 6.00 pm








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