“We Want To Go All The Way”: Baker

Sep 22, 2017 by

Brisbane Strikers senior coach Owen Baker says his players are daring to dream as they prepare to travel south for the second weekend in succession for their PlayStation ®4 NPL Finals Series semi-final against Newcastle club Edgeworth Eagles FC on Saturday.

The PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland premiers will take on their Northern New South Wales counterparts at Jack McLaughlan Oval for the right to go into the grand final decider to determine the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2017 Champions of Australia.

A shot at national honours is now tantalisingly close for all four teams left in the finals series and Baker said the Strikers’ players could almost taste it after last weekend’s 4-2 win over South Hobart FC in Tasmania.

“The boys were really upbeat with the performance in Tasmania and excited about the next game,” said Baker when asked to recall the mood of the playing group on the long flight home.

“They were slightly disappointed that they couldn’t get the home semi-final, but I suppose now the excitement is about a potential home final if we can beat Edgeworth.”

The points system underpinning the PlayStation 4 NPL Finals Series favours teams who win within ninety minutes and score goals. Both Edgeworth Eagles and Strikers (who won 4-1 and 4-2 respectively last weekend) are therefore ahead of the other semi-finalists, Apia Leichhardt and Heidelberg United, who recorded 1-0 and 3-1 wins (the latter in extra time).

That means whoever wins the Eagles v Strikers clash on Saturday is in with a very strong chance of hosting the final. Furthermore, with the other semi-final kicking off three hours earlier, both teams will know exactly what they need to achieve by the time they go into battle in Newcastle.

“I can tell they want it,” said Baker of his players. “They’ve been training well with good intensity. They can see the light down the end of the tunnel in two weeks’ time. I think everybody wants that final at Perry Park.
“But it’s not going to be an easy game against Edgeworth.”

Edgeworth Eagles do indeed shape as a significant stumbling block. They made it all the way to the Grand Final last year (losing to Sydney United 58 FC, who had beaten Strikers in the semi-finals). More recently, in this year’s Westfield FFA Cup they visited South Melbourne FC for the Round of 32 and gave them a very stern test before conceding a stoppage time winner from the home side to lose 1-0.

It won’t be lost on Queensland football fans that South Melbourne thrashed Gold Coast City 6-0 in the quarter-finals of the same competition on Wednesday.

“Edgeworth are a good team – you only have to look at their performance against South Melbourne in the FFA Cup and their league form over the last two to three years,” Baker said.

“They’ve got quality players like Daniel McBreen, who’s played in the A-League and Kieran Sanders, who we know well from Far North Queensland Heat.

“Sanders is a little ‘number ten’ who works off McBreen quite well – they seem to have quite a good relationship together.”

Baker said every Brisbane Striker who had played against South Hobart had reported fit and well to training this week. That included talismanic centre half Greig Henslee, who carried a calf injury into the game and was substituted as a precautionary measure after an hour.

Baker acknowledged it would not be easy for his centre halves to subdue McBreen. The former Hyundai A-League Golden Boot winner, even at 40, remains an energetic and physically-challenging player to mark, with a sharp eye for goal. But Baker expressed confidence in their ability to do get the job done.

“It’s going to be a massive part of our game this weekend – defending well – set pieces and dead ball moments are going to be huge for us,” Baker said.

“It is a big challenge, but it’s a challenge that we want because over the last two years Henslee and Marshall have been part of the best defence in their competition.

“That’s something they pride themselves on. We know we can defend well and we’ve got enough good players in the team in Jake McLean, Michael Lee, Ryan Palmer and Jeremy Stewart to score goals.

Baker said Strikers would employ a travel routine for the match that is well-rehearsed from many seasons of travelling to away games in the NSL, QSL and PlayStation 4 NPL. They will fly to Newcastle the night before the game and then go through their usual pre-game preparations in a bid to ensure they are physically and psychologically as ready as possible.

He said the players were well aware of not only the opportunity that they have, but how much it means to their club and their State.

“It’s huge,” he said. “The club has always had a presence on the national stage and we’re delighted to be there again.

“But we’re not there just to make up the numbers. We want to get to the final and we want to win the final. We know it’s going to be tough, but the boys have earned the right to be here and we want to go all the way.

“We are proud to be one of the last few teams (in the NPL Finals Series) and if we get to lift the Queensland flag in the final we’ll be delighted to do that, most definitely.”

Kick-off at Jack McLaughlan Oval is scheduled for 4.00 pm on Saturday.

Photo: Solstice. Digital & Photography

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