Title Defence Gathers Momentum As Strikers Despatch Thunder With Five

Mar 30, 2018 by

The Brisbane Strikers roared into the NPL Queensland top four – and back into premiership calculations – with an effortless 5-0 victory over SWQ Thunder in a Round 4 catch-up fixture at Perry Park last night.

A first half onslaught that cut the visitors’ defences to shreds had Strikers 4-0 up by half time through goals from Trent Clulow, Jake McLean, Zac Maltby and Ryan Palmer.

While Thunder did well to limit the damage in the second half, realistically the three points had already been secured by a Strikers side who took their foot off the gas while still managing to score a further goal through Clulow to add a little icing to their cake.

The match also marked the first time this season that Strikers had kept their opposition scoreless – a feat that left the team just as happy as the five goals scored.

Thunder were simply no match for a Strikers outfit who opened the game as impressively as they had last Friday in beating Redlands United 2-1. Whatever game plan the visitors brought to Perry Park was effectively null and void by midway through the first half as Strikers went through them like a dose of salts.

Clulow opened the scoring in the sixth minute when he timed his run to perfection to open up a passing opportunity for McLean, whose well-weighted pass caught Thunder flat-footed and square to release Clulow for a run on goal. Thunder goalkeeper Reiley Mason came off his line but was picked off by the Strikers winger, who threaded his left-footed finish to the ‘keeper’s right and into the bottom corner of net with deceptive ease.

1-0 became 2-0 only two minutes later as Strikers attacked down their left flank and fullback Hiroki Omori delivered a low cross into Thunder’s penalty area. The ball was deflected back towards the edge of the box by a defender and was pounced upon by McLean (pictured), who rifled a half-volley past Mason and into the top corner of his goal almost before the ‘keeper had time to react.

The one-way traffic towards Thunder’s goal did not let up and, in the seventeenth minute, Strikers right fullback Sam Knight chimed into an attack to help the ball on to Ryan Palmer, who dribbled to the byline and into Thunder’s penalty area before crossing low to the six-yard box. There, outsprinting a defender to get the first touch, was young Zac Maltby, who got the all-important last touch to propel the ball past Mason to at last score his overdue first senior team goal.

As Thunder’s defence continued to struggle with the sharpness of Strikers’ movement off the ball and the crispness of their combination passing another goal looked imminent from open play. But instead it arrived from a dead ball situation when Thunder, not for the first time, failed to mark up in their own goalmouth and afforded Palmer the rare opportunity of a free header from Omori’s corner kick.

Palmer’s stooping header planted the ball in the back of Thunder’s net and it was 4-0 and looking worse than ominous for the visitors.

But Thunder steadied and enjoyed a few attacking forays of their own, before centre half Riley Lobwein produced a tremendous sliding block to get in the way of another goalbound shot from Clulow as McLean and Clulow again combined to pick them apart on the counter-attack.

Lobwein’s heroics enabled Thunder to escape to the safety of their dressing room at half time without further hurt on the scoreboard, and the visitors did a good job to take the game to Strikers over the opening fifteen minutes of the second half.

Strikers goalkeeper Nathan Archbold, little more than a spectator and sweeper in the first half, had two or three regulation saves to make as well as a rather more serious intervention to tip away an angled drive from Thunder substitute Jackson Franke before Strikers regained their hold on the contest.

By the sixty-seventh minute they were well and truly back in the groove, twisting and turning Thunder’s defenders this way and that in a serious of fluent attacks. Eventually it proved too much for Thunder, as a long sequence of passes ended with Maltby cutting back from the byline to cue pandemonium in Thunder’s penalty area before Clulow seized on a loose ball to power it home from six yards for his second of the night.

Strikers dominated the remainder of the game, creating several scoring chances that came to nothing – most notably when substitute Denis Yongule’s delayed square pass found another substitute, Braedon Steel, in front of goal only ten yards out. Steel, however, missed the target with his attempted first-time finish and the game ended 5-0 to the home side as a tiring Thunder team hung in against a home side that had knew it already had the job done.

The win put Strikers into the top four for the first time this season, on thirteen points, at the expense of Moreton Bay United, whose inferior goal difference saw them drop to fifth.

Afterwards Clulow said the most satisfying aspect of Strikers’ performance was not the five goals they had scored. Instead, it was something that would have pleased Omori, Knight, Archbold, Michael McGowan and Greig Henslee most particularly.

“The first clean sheet was really important for a team that previously prided ourselves on defence,” Clulow said.

“We’d openly admit that it (defending) hasn’t been at the standards that we’ve set from the start of the season. So it was great to get the first clean sheet.

“It was also good to be clinical at times. There’s still room for improvement, but to go 4-0 up within the first half hour – we had the foot on their throat from the get-go, which was convincing.

“But now it’s about moving things on to the second half”.

NPL Queensland Round 4 (catch-up fixture), Perry Park: Brisbane Strikers 5 (Clulow 2, McLean, Maltby, Palmer) v SWQ Thunder 0.

Brisbane Strikers: Nathan Archbold (gk), Brock Messenger, Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Sam Knight, Ryan Palmer, Hiroki Omori, Trent Clulow, Zachary Maltby. Subs: Denis Yongule, Braedon Steel. Coach: David Large

SWQ Thunder: Reiley Mason (gk), Nicholas Edwards, Wade Hall, Jacob Bigby (c), Emmanuel Philip, Kimba Kibombo, Lathan Dunn, Anthony Grant, Nykodah Smith, Riley Lobwein, Kyle Townsend. Subs: Jackson Franke, Jack Percy, Alick Gaske. Coach: Francesco Zanoncelli.

Referee: Lara Lee

Photo: Roze Gallo

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