The extraordinary events of 2020 have not been lost on football, with Round 22 of the National Premier League (NPL) Men’s Queensland producing some equally extraordinary results.
With the midtable toilers working in tandem to hold the table toppers at an impasse, top spot is up for grabs in what is shaping up to be a scintillating schedule for Round 23.
One of the league’s most threatening sides since the break will meet the joint ladder leaders for the second time in as many weeks, while with just 10 points currently the difference between relegation and finals football, climbing their up the ladder will be the goal for the rest of the competition.
Fans can watch all First Grade NPL Men’s matches live on NPL.TV, free for Australian residents.
Feature Match: Brisbane City v Gold Coast Knights
Radiating shades of last round’s NPL Men’s Feature Match, a first place side again takes their table-topping tour to Newmarket, this time in the form of the red and blue of Gold Coast Knights.
An air of stoicism permeated throughout the concrete chassis of Corporate Travel Management Stadium as the pride of Richlands came roaring into battle with the ninth-placed Brisbane City in the Brisbane Classico. Undaunted by the occasion, the hosts proved hard to manage as they fought back to parity from a one-nil deficit, courtesy of Nathan Beagley’s Goal of the Week effort.
The home side looked vastly different from the one that suffered defeat at the hands of Gold Coast United just a week prior. Playing out a prosaic opening five games, marred by two defeats in their last three games, they seemed easy prey for the rampant Richlands outfit. Ironically, it was City who had the lion’s share of opportunities, tranquilizing their opposing attack while steadying their back in the 1-1 draw.
Nathan Beagley was City’s top performer, with his efforts paying dividends not only in attack but also in his nullifying of Golden Boot leader Joe Duckworth, which proved integral in keeping the scores locked at one-all. Bon Scott’s availability will be monitored leading up to the game, the gloveman suffering a concussion in last Saturday’s proceedings.
Joint ladder leaders Knights come into the fixture off the back of a gruelling stalemate with a resurgent Eastern Suburbs. Leading at 2-1 for the bulk of the clash, courtesy of Macuace and Kyle efforts, they were pegged back to two apiece by an Antony Poljak finish, ensuring that they’d be sharing the podium with Lions FC for at least another week.
As mentioned in last week’s Round 22 preview, complacency has been the bane of the 2019 Champions’ campaign, stuttering to draws with Moreton Bay United and Easts in results which see them still locked on points with Lions. They’ll go into Saturday’s clash with a record of three draws from their past three matches.
Knights will be hoping to buck the blip and return to winning ways against City, and boast the star-power to ratify it. The Gold Coast side have added former Western Pride talisman Harrison Sawyer to their stocks, the six-foot-five gun forward joining mid-week from South Melbourne. He joins a strike force spearheaded by the mercurial Jheison Macuace, who has struck eight goals in seven matches this season.
Boasting unequivocal depth in every third, Knights have arrowed in 20 goals in their opening fixtures, a total supplemented by the league’s best defensive record, letting in only five goals in 2020.
Brisbane City v Gold Coast Knights
Saturday, 8 August, 6:00pm
Corporate Travel Management Stadium
Feature Match: Olympic FC v Brisbane Strikers
Round 23’s second Feature Match centres on two of the NPL Queensland Men’s traditional heavyweights, both of whom find themselves in differing fortunes going into Sunday’s skirmish at Goodwin Park.
With three Premierships between them, as well as a steadfast presence in the latter stages of the NPL Finals series, this game should be pitting two top teams against one another. Instead, 3rd placed Olympic FC will be met by a Brisbane Strikers outfit looking to find their feet in season 2020.
Olympic FC initiated their campaign assuredly, salvaging eight points from their opening six matches, headlined by wins over Moreton Bay United and Gold Coast United. They fell to defeat at the hands of the competition’s classiest operators though in Gold Coast Knights and Peninsula Power in Rounds 2 and 3.
Only since the resumption round have Olympic hit their stride, putting Capalaba FC to the sword in a 4-0 win and reinforcing their form since the return with a 2-1 win over last-placed Sunshine Coast Wanderers.
Despite enjoying the joint third best attacking record in the league, their goalscoring antics have been curtailed by a lack of ruthlessness in the front third, highlighted by last week’s narrow win over Wanderers, with a penalty kick getting them over the line in Buderim. While the goalscoring has been apportioned equally amongst the front third, a heavy impetus will be placed on the dynamic Daniel Leck, carrying three goals from his past two into Sunday’s soiree.
Brisbane Strikers will make the trip to Yeronga with a renewed sense of confidence after notching their first win of the season in a dogged 3-2 win over Redlands United in Round 22. A goal from the vivacious Fraser Hills opened the scoring before Oliver Smith struck, with Michael Ndjekompte’s 73rd minute winner cancelling out Robert Kramer’s Redlands brace.
The result means Strikers are undefeated in their past three games, adding draws with Brisbane Roar FC Youth and Sunshine Coast Wanderers to their five-point tally. With the forwards yet to open the floodgates, they’ll be hoping to release the tap as they shape up to a Red and Black defence that has conceded an amicable eight goals in 2020.
Brendan White has been an imperious figure between the sticks for Strikers and will need to be at his acrobatic best to curb the fleet-footed Olympic attack. Skipper Jake McLean will no doubt be decisive in his team’s chances, his ability to fashion opportunities for his strike partners distinguishing him as their most profitable outlet.
Olympic FC v Brisbane Strikers
Sunday, 9 August, 6:00pm
Lions FC v Eastern Suburbs
Eastern Suburbs are looking to play the role of killjoy once again as the Tigers bear their claws against the omnipotent Lions FC in Sunday night’s clash at Richlands.
Lions will be hoping to match their table-topping counterparts in the Gold Coast Knights step for step as they face the renascent Easts outfit. Coming to a grinding halt in last week’s stalemate with Brisbane City, they looked a foot off the pace as Jordan Farina’s sole goal was pegged back by a Nathan Beagley effort.
Having to recalibrate as they grappled with the loss of Danny Kim, Marco Jankovic looked a sound addition to the team that has blasted home 24 goals in seven games, conceding a nigh impregnable six goals in the meantime. With an alacritous anterior headed by 10-goal talisman Joe Duckworth, Lions will have a gutsy glimmer in their eye as they hope to ravage their way to top spot.
After three defeats in their opening five, Easts have looked a different beast since their Round 6 humbling of Brisbane City, dominating against Peninsula Power in a 2-0 win at Heath Park. Eastern Suburbs’ recent run of form was further buoyed by their monumental fightback against Gold Coast Knights.
Debut goals to Jayden Balarezo and Antony Poljak, who landed the 70th minute equaliser, augmented a front third which is led by the audacious Abrahim Yango, promising a constant threat on the counter. The procuring of Jade North has paid dividends for Easts, the imposing defender steadying the Heath Park ship.
Lions FC v Eastern Suburbs
Sunday, 8 August, 6:00pm
Other Round 8 Matches:
Capalaba FC v Moreton Bay United
Saturday, 8 August, 5:30pm
John Fredericks Park
Redlands United v Peninsula Power
Saturday, 8 August, 7:00pm
Compass Grounds 1
Sunshine Coast Wanderers v Olympic FC
Sunday, 2 August, 4:00pm
Gold Coast United v Brisbane Roar FC Youth
Sunday, 9 August, 4:30pm
Coplick Family Sports Park 1
Abrahim Yango (Eastern Suburbs): The twinkle-toed Abrahim Yango has been in inspired form this season with four goals to his name, his explosivity key to Easts’ chances of spoiling the ladder leader’s party.
Brendan White (Brisbane Strikers): The former A-League shotstopper has often been the difference for Strikers this season, his penchant for a stunning save crucial as he looks to stem the fast-flowing Olympic.
Nathan Beagley (Brisbane City): Looking a class above his teammates as he secured City a point against the rampant Lions, Beagley will have to replicate his performance should they achieve a result against Gold Coast Knights this weekend.
Words: Angus Barnes
Image: Ian Judd/Lions FC