Title Pendulum Swings Towards Strikers After Roar Youth Despatched

Aug 13, 2017 by

A surging second half performance featuring three goals in eleven minutes carried the Brisbane Strikers to a 4-1 victory over Brisbane Roar FC Youth at Perry Park last night and dramatically turned the 2017 PlayStation ® 4 NPL title chase in their favour with one round left to play.

After going into the game three points behind league leaders Gold Coast City, Strikers desperately needed to win while hoping that Gold Coast City would drop points at home to Western Pride. Strikers trailed early to a Daniel Leck goal but equalised through Michael Lee before half time and then powered to victory on the back of second half goals from Luke Marsh, Ethan Docherty and Hiroki Omori to finish the season with an unbeaten home record.

The game did not begin promisingly for Strikers, for whom midfielders Michael Lee and Ryan Palmer came into the starting eleven in place of the suspended Sam Knight and Jake McLean. The home team looked slightly off the pace over the opening half-hour and paid the price.

Young Roar looked the more direct and purposeful team and threatened twice through Leck’s trickery down their right side without coming up with the necessary quality with their final pass to punish the home team.

But Leck was on hand in the twenty-third minute as Strikers’ defence failed to clear a lofted corner kick. The winger controlled the ball about twelve yards out from goal and lifting an angled drive that Strikers goalkeeper Zac Speedy, moments after denying Emilio Martinez with a smart save, could only palm into the top far corner of his net as the visitors took a shock lead.

But as well as Roar Youth started, they faded as the half wore on while Strikers responded with improved possession play and fluency. The visitors soon found themselves starved of the ball and pushed back inside their own half and it was no surprise when Lee, having worked a wall-pass with a teammate, found himself with the ball at his feet and only Roar goalkeeper Macklin Freke in front of him in the thirty-fourth minute. Lee then produced a composed finish from twelve yards to slot the ball past Freke and celebrate his return to the starting eleven by equalising for his team.

Young Roar finished the half with their goal under siege but survived to the interval with no further damage while Strikers contemplated a second half in which they needed to score at least once to take their title chase into the competition’s final week.

Ominously for the visitors, Strikers were back out on the pitch quickly for the second half – waiting a full five minutes for the restart. And when that restart was signalled by referee Rachael Mitchenson’s whistle the home team tore into the contest like bulls at a gate.

Midfielder Docherty hit the side netting of Young Roar’s goal with a shot within a minute of play resuming and Palmer had a headed goal ruled out by an offside flag as Strikers camped inside Young Roar’s half and frustrated the visitors’ attempts to play out.

Something had to give for Young Roar and, in the sixty-first minute, it did. Strikers took a corner kick and flighted it deep towards centre back Henslee, who won the jump for the ball and nodded it down towards goal. Young Roar’s defenders failed to clear the danger and Marsh, lurking some eight yards or so from goal, reacted quickest and smashed the loose ball past Freke to the approving screams of the home team’s supporters and the frenzied delight of his teammates.

The goal punctured the already crumbling resistance of Young Roar and they went further behind three minutes later to a quality strike from Docherty after Lee had seized on a loose pass in the middle of the park and immediately threaded a pass forward to the tall midfielder. Docherty, twenty yards out from goal, took one touch and then hit a shot on the turn that skimmed across the turf and beat the full-length dive of Freke to finish in the bottom corner of his net.

At 3-1 there seemed little chance of Young Roar finding a way back into the contest. But just to make sure, the rampant home side continued pressing and in the seventy-second minute Docherty brought down a high ball inside Young Roar’s penalty area, held off a defender and laid a pass back to Omori. The Strikers wingback then skipped past a defender before despatching a shot of laser precision past Freke, who had no chance, and into the far corner of his goal.

Strikers coach Sean Lane and Young Roar coach James Robinson then began ringing the changes from their benches and the match drifted somewhat towards its close – but not before Speedy made a fine one-handed save in stoppage time, showing stunning reflexes to palm Daniel Driver’s goalbound shot from twelve yards around his goalpost with his outstretched left glove.

The win took Strikers to 48 points, the same total as Gold Coast City at the top of the league table, but ahead of them courtesy of a significantly superior goal difference. But when news filtered through thirty minutes later that Pride had defeated Gold Coast City, Michael Angus and his men were left contemplating the fact that, for the first time this season, the destiny of the premiers’ trophy is in their hands.

There remains one very difficult assignment for Strikers to negotiate – away to third-placed Brisbane Olympic next Sunday – before they can claim back-to-back PlayStation ® 4 NPL Queensland titles. But given that Gold Coast City are scheduled to play their final fixture away to Moreton Bay United on Saturday, by the time Strikers take the pitch at Goodwin Park they will know exactly what result they need to achieve.

Strikers skipper Angus said he was not worried by Strikers’ slow start and by conceding the first goal to Young Roar in a game they had to win.

“It’s obviously a tough situation when you go a goal behind but we’ve been in situations like that before so we’re the type of squad that has that belief – we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now if we didn’t have that,” Angus said.

“We know at home, as well, we have a pretty good record and it was just about chipping away, keeping trying to play and getting into good areas and creating chances. We knew they would come”.

Angus said Strikers would not change anything about their approach as they look to next Sunday’s potential premiership-deciding match at Olympic.

“We’re a side that always wants to go out and win a premiership. It’s (going to be) the same mentality that we had at the start of the season to now,” he said.

“We’ll go into the game like we would any other game and approach it in the right way – go out to win the game and see where we stand at the end of that.”

Brisbane Strikers FC 4 (Lee 34, Marsh 61, Docherty 64, Omori 71) v Brisbane Roar FC Youth 1 (Leck, 24)

Brisbane Strikers FC: Zac Speedy (gk), Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Ethan Docherty, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Jeremy Stewart, Lachlan Weier, Hiroki Omori, Ryan Palmer, Luke Marsh. Subs: Fraser Eller, Braedon Steele, Zac Maltby. Coach: Sean Lane

Brisbane Roar FC Youth: Macklin Freke (gk), Emilio Martinez, Daniel Leck, Adam Sawyer (c), Finn Beakhurst, Lloyd Cabilan, Daniel Driver, Rahmat Akbari, Nathan Yoon, Callum Harris, Emlyn Wellsmore. Subs: Kye Bolton, Ryan O’Connor. Coach: James Robinson

Referee – Rachel Mitchenson

Photo: Michele Pitman

Match Reports, News

About the author

Media Liaison, Brisbane Strikers Mob: 0432 085 222