Hyundai Queensland State League – Round Eleven
Sunshine Coast Fire v Brisbane Strikers
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Kane Frampton – Staff Reporter
It promised to be a blockbuster, and the clash between the Sunshine Coast Fire and Brisbane Strikers lived up to expectations, with the Fire securing a 2-1 victory in an entertaining match at Kawana.
Goals to Tyson Holmes and Shaun Blackman either side of half time were enough for the Fire, who now boast an 11 game winning streak after disposing of the second-placed Strikers.
Both sides were aware of the importance of the fixture in the grand scheme of things. For the Strikers, it was the chance to cut the Sunshine Coast’s lead at the top to seven points. For the Fire, the match provided an opportunity to open an imposing 13 point lead over the Strikers, a huge advantage with only 10 weeks of the regular season to go.
The match kicked off at a frenetic pace, as both teams sought to get on top early. It quickly became clear that complacency would not be an issue for the Fire, as they attacked the ball with ferocity and didn’t give an inch.
It took some time for both teams to settle, and both the Fire and Strikers were guilty of rushing the play at times, causing attacks to break down.
The Fire’s decision-making and execution improved as the half progressed, and as has often been the case this season, direct play down the flanks was beginning to yield dividends. James Stinson released Sam Knight, who burned his marker for pace down the right, before hitting a cross into the penalty area. The cross found Chris Bacon, who shot with his first touch but didn’t connect well.
The two tall forward targets for the Fire in Shaun Blackman and Chris Bacon were causing problems for the Strikers defence. Blackman flicked a long-ball on with his head, but Bacon’s first-touch shot went wide.
Despite winning more of the ball in midfield, it wasn’t all one way traffic for the Sunshine Coast.
The Strikers were having some success down the right wing, but were only able to produce a handful of half chances. After controlling a long ball, Brad McDonald shot directly at Antony Hall who saved easily. Minutes later, Sean Burke flashed a shot over the bar from distance.
On 41 minutes, it all clicked for the Sunshine Coast. After winning the ball in midfield, Yuta Gonai split the lines with a nicely weighted through-ball to Tyson Holmes. As the Strikers screamed for offside, Holmes moved in on goal and coolly slotted the ball through the legs of keeper Brendan White for a welcome 1-0 lead.
Holmes was the beneficiary of a wonderful pass from Yuta, whose composure in midfield and ability to produce an incisive through-pass has been an asset for the Fire this season.
With half-time beckoning, Brisbane were desperate to avoid a second goal and increased their defensive pressure, looking to stay organised and keep their shape. Neither team was being granted any time to settle on the ball, and passes were often missing their targets.
Half time came with the Fire up by a goal in a quality contest.
The Strikers had the first opportunity of the second stanza, when Brad McDonald hit a low shot across the face of goal and well wide.
Soon after, a long ball was brought to ground by Chris Bacon, who forced a good save out of Strikers keeper White.
The game began to open up a little and heavy challenges began to creep into the contest. There are often fireworks when these two teams meet, but the referee mercifully kept his cards in his pocket for most of the game.
As the second half wore on, the Fire began to really hit their straps. Blackman met a Corey Towle corner at the far post, but didn’t connect well with his header. Soon after, another quality pass from Yuta found Bacon, who went agonisingly close to doubling the lead with a low shot that missed just wide.
On 76 minutes, the Sunshine Coast had their second goal. Blackman collected a neat reverse pass in the penalty area and blasted a shot past White from close range for a 2-0 lead.
Blackman’s goal took the sting out of the contest, but the Fire’s defence was taking nothing for granted and looked to stay organised through to the final whistle.
The Strikers netted a consolation on 88 minutes, when a low cross was not cleared and Sean Burke blasted a shot into the roof of the net to make the scores 2-1.
It made for a nervy few minutes of injury time for the Sunshine Coast, but the whistle soon blew for another impressive victory and a sizeable 13 point lead atop the HQSL ladder for the Fire.
Coach Aston Bell heaped praise on his team, which has now won 11 games straight.
“I thought my team was outstanding tonight, apart from being a little rushed in the first 15 minutes of each half, but I thought we then settled down, got composed and controlled large parts of the game. When you look out our transition football, when we won the ball in defensive areas and moved into attack, we always had players in motion.”
Bell did not think the scoreline did his team’s performance justice.
“I was a little bit disappointed to concede late, but I think 2-1 flattered them (the Strikers) a little bit, we were probably good for a couple more goals.”
Next week the Fire are on the road again, heading to Mackay to face the Whitsunday Miners on Sunday, June 13. Kick-off is at 2pm.
Final Score: Sunshine Coast Fire – 2 (Holmes, 41, Blackman, 76)
Brisbane Strikers – 1 (Burke, 88)