With Round 23 seeing the two table toppers match each other step-for-step with wins over the midtable toilers, it sets up an entrancing Round 24 that could set up space at the summit.
The league’s most threatening side will take their table-topping tour to one of the competition’s comeback kings of lockdown, while the 7-point differential between 12th and finals should chop and change when the teams take to the park for Round 24.
Fans can watch all First Grade NPL Men’s matches live and on demand on NPL.TV, free for Australian residents.
Feature Match: Brisbane Strikers v Lions FC
Since Lions FC’s NPL Queensland inauguration in 2018, their trophy track record has elevated them to a level of league prestige occupied by only one other, the eminent Brisbane Strikers.
With Perry Park playing home to two premierships during Strikers’ golden era of 2016-2017, it provides a fitting stage as two of the competition’s most successful battle it out in the first Feature Match of Round 24.
The suspension of the season provided an interesting, if erratic, effect on form. Owen Baker’s side went into the break without a win from their opening four fixtures, with just a point lifting them off the foot of the ladder. With tinkering and tightening the task at hand, Brisbane Strikers’ resurgence has been nothing short of sensational.
Christening their homecoming with a draw to Sunshine Coast Wanderers, they sprung off the launching pad with a 3-2 win over Redlands United, and most recently an invigored and onerous 1-0 win over 4th placed Olympic FC.
With a throng of new faces donning the Yellow and Blue, the two-time premiership winners look a far-cry from the bottom feeders of season start. Discontented with mid-table tedium, a win over the ravenous Richlands side will no doubt set their season on a finals trajectory.
With their attacking fluidity congealed, having recorded just nine goals, their tendential tenacity is the determining factor in Saturday’s skirmish. Stalwart centrehalf Liam Cosgrove and gloveman Brendan White, who featured in Round 23’s Team of the Week, will be instrumental in tranquilizing the Lions.
The epitome of consistency since Round 1 of season 2018, Lions FC have fast established themselves as one of the most revered side in not only Queensland, but Australia-wide. Under the stewardship of Darren Sime, who’s overseen a seamless transition from the Warren Moon era, the 2019 Premiers have taken their game to another level.
Sitting sanguinely at the summit, albeit neck-and-neck with Gold Coast Knights, an undefeated eight fixtures has them well positioned for a third consecutive premiership. Having been pegged to a 1-1 draw with Brisbane City the week prior, Lions returned to form with a 5-1 humbling of Eastern Suburbs in Round 23.
They’ll be hoping for a profitable pursuit as the pride converges on Perry Park.
Strikers’ home has proved a happy hunting ground for the Blue and Orange. Undefeated in their previous two expeditions, this is compounded by Lions’ four game winning streak over their opposition, which aggregated a +7 goal differential in their two encounters last season.
Lions boast the competitions most menacing attack. Joe Duckworth leads the Golden Boat tally with 11, while Mitch Hore’s hat-trick at Heath Park propels an already virulent vanguard to new heights. Coach Sime will be hoping the Strikers clash provides ample opportunity for his side to strut their stuff, and stake an undisputed claim as table-toppers.
Brisbane Strikers v Lions FC
Saturday, 15 August, 6:30pm
Feature Match: Moreton Bay United v Peninsula Power
The second Feature Match in the NPL Queensland pits the competition’s northernmost clubs against one another as they look to haul themselves out of the middle of the pack and challenge for a finals berth.
Moreton Bay United looked like the NPL Queensland’s dark horse when they came racing out of the blocks with barnstorming wins over Sunshine Coast Wanderers and Brisbane Strikers. This form was routed in a 4-0 loss to Olympic, which has since relegated United to four points from their previous four.
A three-game unbeaten streak, albeit comprised of stalemates, was curtailed by a Round 23 loss to Capalaba, who fired home three second half goals to cancel out Declan Smith’s brace. United now find themselves in 6th place, and will fancy their chances to draw level on points when they face Power at home.
While their foibles lay in inconsistency, the 2017 Grand Finalists have come on leaps and bounds under the guise of Royce Brownlie. Already accounting for a third of last year’s goals scored, United have twice demonstrated their ability to put sides to the sword, registering two four-goal scorelines.
Alex Janovsky has been an imperious figure in the engine room for Moreton Bay. Part of the furniture at Wolter Park, he will be a key cog in his side’s chances, with his penchant for a tackle and ability to fashion opportunities from deep latently decisive.
5th placed Peninsula Power have enjoyed relative success since the competition restart. Carrying two wins from their past three into Sunday’s soiree, they dispatched an invigored Roar Youth before turning their attention to Redlands United in a 2-1 victory last round.
These victories obscured a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Eastern Suburbs in the resumption round, which, coupled with a 3-0 loss to Gold Coast Knights before the break, means defensive deficiencies are a thorn in the side for Aaron Philp’s men.
The greatest disparity for last year’s semi finalists lies in their once stormy spearhead. Last season’s 3rd highest scorers with 84 goals, Power have nestled the ball in the net a nominal seven times since. There’s a Dean Briggs-sized hole in their attack, the 17-goal void yet to be filled by their swathe of suitors.
Andy Pengelly will be hoping to rediscover his Golden Boot winning form as he shapes up against an ostensibly vulnerable United defence. Belatedly slotting home his first since his return from Singapore, Pengelly will be hoping to have Power firing on all cylinders as they look to catapult themselves into 3rd.
Moreton Bay United v Peninsula Power
Sunday, 16 August, 3:00pm
Another Key Match:
Brisbane Roar Youth v Brisbane City
Enjoying their most prosperous start to a campaign since the competition’s inception, Brisbane Roar Youth have strode into 3rd place with a swagger. Playing an electric brand of attacking football, the young side has secured 14 points from their opening eight.
Exploding onto the scene with gallivanting wins over Sunshine Coast Wanderers, Capalaba FC and Eastern Suburbs, their form was tempered by clashes with their top four counterparts. Returning to form with a stylish 3-2 win over Gold Coast United, which included three Goal of the Week nominations, the Black and Orange will be hoping to make quick work of The Azzurri this weekend.
Alex Parsons has been a picture of consistency, oozing class on the ball that has seen him become their focal point in attack. Eli Adams marked his first start of the season with an 84th minute winner, the wily winger notching a spot in the Team of the Week for his efforts.
Enduring a rigorous resumption, marked by consecutive games against the twin table toppers, Brisbane City find themselves languishing in 11th going into Round 24.
Dogged determination earned them a point against Lions but wasn’t enough to deter Gold Coast Knights from snatching three points at Corporate Travel Management Stadium. Opening their season with a derby win over Brisbane Strikers, it’s been four games since City last tasted success.
Matt Smith’s latest recruit Daniel Fabrizio will look to inject octane into City’s engine, while defender Tyson Martin will hoping to get one over against his former club, the new arrival looking presenting an imposing presence in their backline.
Brisbane Roar Youth v Brisbane City
Sunday, 16 August, 2:00pm
Logan Metro Sports Complex
Other Round 8 Matches:
Eastern Suburbs v Sunshine Coast Wanderers
Saturday, 15 August, 6:45pm
Redlands United v Olympic FC
Saturday, 15 August, 7:00pm
Compass Grounds 1
Gold Coast United v Capalaba FC
Sunday, 16 August, 4:30pm
Coplick Family Sports Park 1
Liam Cosgrove (Brisbane Strikers): The Round 23 Team of the Week inductee was rewarded for his efforts against Olympic and his defensive nous will be key in stifling the rampaging Lions FC
Ryo Ono (Capalaba FC): The crafty Japanese playmaker was instrumental in his side’s comeback over Moreton Bay United, with Capalaba’s focal point of attacking need to replicate his genius against Gold Coast United
Tyson Martin (Brisbane City): The former Young Roar fullback returns to face his former club, with pride on the line as he looks to stem the orange onslaught
Words: Angus Barnes