Hyundai Queensland State League – Round Nine
Sunshine Coast Fire v Queensland Academy of Sport
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Kane Frampton – Staff Reporter
Jubilation for the Sunshine Coast Fire, as the team overcame a second-half resurgence from QAS to snatch a 3-2 victory and extend their winning streak to nine games
A late hat-trick from Yuta Gonai brought the Fire back from the brink in Round 2 against QAS, but this time around Shaun Blackman was the hero, netting in the last minute of regular time for a deserved victory.
The match had all the hallmarks of an enjoyable encounter from the opening whistle, as both sides fought hard to stamp their authority on the contest.
The Sunshine Coast had the better of the opening exchanges, with Yuta Gonai forcing a fine save out of QAS keeper Tim Anderson. QAS defender Nejo Vujevich’s last-gasp tackle prevented a one-on-one for the Coast’s Ryan Delahunty minutes later.
The technical ability of the young QAS side was well known to the Fire, but the back four of Ray Schultz, Alex Henderson, Greig Henslee and James Stinson were looking solid.
After 37 minutes, the Sunshine Coast opened their account. Following a corner, Yuta Gonai chipped to Shaun Blackman at the far post, who nodded the ball towards goal. James Stinson and Ryan Delahunty converged on the ball, with Stinson helping it over the line for a 1-0 advantage.
This lead was almost doubled minutes later when a corner from Corey Towle fell to Shaun Blackman, but the captain prodded his shot over the crossbar.
For QAS, Alistair Quinn had a long range shot dealt with by Fire keeper Antony Hall, but genuine chances were few and far between.
In the seconds before half time, the Sunshine Coast found a second goal after an impressive passage of play. After winning the ball in midfield, Tyson Holmes split the QAS defence with an incisive through-ball that found Blackman in the penalty area. Blackman shot with his first touch, beating the advancing keeper on six yards and doubling the team’s advantage.
QAS came out swinging after the break, hoping to catch the Sunshine Coast napping after they had secured an early lead. Ben Halloran made the scores 2-1 on 53 minutes with a long-range strike, the ball bouncing awkwardly for Antony Hall as he dropped to make the save.
Furious about conceding, the Sunshine Coast Fire upped their intensity but QAS were finding more and more of the ball. On 60 minutes, a contentious decision reduced the Fire to 10 men and levelled the scores at two apiece. Alex Henderson looked to have cleared a shot off the line with a clean header, but was adjudged to have handled the ball and was given his marching orders, a bitter pill to swallow for home supporters.
Halloran stepped up and levelled the scores with a well-taken penalty, and the Sunshine Coast found themselves a man down and with their backs to the wall.
The Fire were also reduced to ten men in the Round 2 encounter with QAS, although that red card was due to an undisciplined tackle rather than a seemingly harsh decision from the referee. Nonetheless, the Fire looked to put the injustice behind them and find a winner. Ray Schultz was moved into central defence, with Corey Towle moved to cover left-back.
Despite the numerical disadvantage in attack, the Sunshine Coast looked like the team most likely to find a winning goal. After 75 minutes, Ryan Delahunty latched onto a loose ball in the penalty area, but slammed his half-volley into the crossbar.
With tempers flaring and the Sunshine Coast’s winning streak in jeopardy, the Fire were desperate for a goal to bail themselves out. It almost came on 85 minutes, when a long throw from James Stinson found the head of Shaun Blackman. Once again, a quality save kept QAS in the hunt.
In the last minute of regular time, substitute Joel Dempster stepped up to deliver a corner for the Sunshine Coast. His cross found Blackman at the far post, who connected with a powerful header that hit the back of the net and regained the lead for the Sunshine Coast, sending the crowd into raptures.
Justice had been done, and the Fire were free to celebrate their ninth consecutive Hyundai QSL victory and a 10 point lead atop the Hyundai QSL ladder.
Coach Aston Bell was delighted with his team’s gutsy triumph after going a man down.
“We were under pressure, but we showed a lot of poise. I thought it was a poor refereeing decision, I thought Alex (Henderson) got a clear header on the ball. For him to be sent off and the team reduced to ten men, it became a real test of character for us. We set about resetting ourselves and getting composed,” Bell said.
Bell was impressed that the team’s attacking football was not curbed by the numerical disadvantage.
“We created a lot of chances, in the first half and in the last fifteen minutes. We were putting pressure on their back four. It just shows the way that we can play the game, and take it the opposition.”
Round 10 of the Hyundai QSL is to be an away fixture for the Sunshine Coast Fire, as the boys travel to Rockhampton to take on the Capricorn Cougars. Kickoff is at 2pm on Sunday, May 30 at Ryan Park.
Final Score: Sunshine Coast FC – 3 (Stinson, 37, Blackman, 44, 90)
Queensland Academy of Sport – 2 (Halloran, 53, 60)