Mid-week action from Round 10 of the NPL Men’s provided an upturn in results for team’s stationed lower down the ladder.
The table-topping Lions FC and Gold Coast Knights were held to draws by Eastern Suburbs and Brisbane City respectively, both of whom are now plotting their assaults on the competition’s elite.
Brisbane Strikers continued their resurgence with a four-goal draw against Olympic FC, while Brisbane Roar Youth re-emerged as potential title contenders.
The quick turnaround will have interesting implications for Round 26, which could well see one team take an undisputed stake at the summit.
Feature Match: Brisbane Strikers v Gold Coast United
The season shutdown threw a spanner into the works for teams around the league, unsettling some and providing respite for others.
Owen Baker’s Strikers are one side that have profited from the suspension, having gone into the break without a win from their opening four fixtures – a solitary point gained against Roar Youth their only comfort.
With 11 points since the resumption, their recovery has been nothing short of sensational.
After overcoming their lethargy in a 1-1 draw with Sunshine Coast Wanderers, they sprinted to wins over Redlands United and Olympic before showcasing their class in a 2-0 victory over the then-undefeated Lions.
Though their three-point streak was then curtailed in a loss to Peninsula Power, the two-time Premiers have looked from the strugglers of season start.
Now back among the pack with a respectable seventh place, Strikers will be looking to continue their climb with a result against Gold Coast United.
United were shaping up to the competition’s dark horse after making a series of shrewd signings leading into the season and, though clearly talented, there are adjustments to be made for the expedition up the M1 following successive losses.
Consistency has eluded them across their opening nine matches and it could be up to experienced heads like Shane Smeltz and Justyn McKay to lift them back into the mix for higher honours.
Brisbane Strikers v Gold Coast United
Saturday, 29 August, 6:30pm
Feature Match: Olympic FC v Lions FC
The round’s second feature match is poised to be an enrapturing engagement as Olympic welcome rivals Lions to Goodwin Park.
Taking eight points from their opening six matches, Olympic – last season’s beaten Grand Finalists – entered into the competitive fray unconvincingly. They were put to the sword by the competition’s classier operators, suffering at the hands of Knights and Peninsula Power in Rounds 2 and 3.
Only since the resumption have Olympic hit their stride, emphatically dispatching Capalaba FC 4-0 upon the restart, with subsequent wins over Wanderers and Redlands closing the gap to the top three.
Victory here would take them within a point of the team they beat in last season’s Semi Final and a new addition since then, winger Daniel Leck, will be full of confidence after netting a midweek brace against Strikers.
Retribution for last September’s disappointing loss will be on the agenda for Lions, as will a return to top form after twice dropping points in three games.
They boast the league’s most prolific frontline and the Golden Boot leader in Joe Duckworth, who has received able support from Jordan Farina and the Hore brothers.
Lions will be determined to make their travelling supporters proud at what could prove to be a pivotal point in their campaign.
Olympic FC v Lions FC
Sunday, 30 August, 6:00pm
Another Key Match:
Brisbane City v Moreton Bay United
Languishing low down the ladder just three rounds ago, City’s surge into sixth has been a renaissance in microcosm.
Important victories over Roar Youth and Capalaba set the standard for a determined and impressive 2-2 draw away to Knights on Gold Coast, a result that would have been a win if not for Adam Endean’s late equaliser.
Moreton Bay United, meanwhile, looked like one of this year’s surprise packages when they came racing out of the blocks with barnstorming wins over Wanderers and Strikers.
Their form evened out after a 4-0 humbling at the hands of Olympic and more recent losses – two against Capalaba and one against Power – have forced Jets down into 11th.
Moreton Bay have at least demonstrated some potency in front of goal in recent times and will look to the likes of Jackson Courtney-Perkins and Declan Smith for inspiration at Corporate Travel Management Stadium.
Brisbane City v Moreton Bay United
Saturday, 29 August, 5:30pm
Corporate Travel Management Stadium
Other Round 8 Matches:
Peninsula Power v Capalaba FC
Saturday, 29 August, 5:00pm
AJ Kelly Park
Brisbane Roar Youth v Redlands United
Sunday, 30 August, 2:00pm
Logan Metro Sports Complex
Sunshine Coast Wanderers v Gold Coast Knights
Sunday, 30 August, 4:00pm
Jheison Macuace (Gold Coast Knights): The crafty Colombian has taken his game to another level under Grae Piddick and will look to continue his scoring streak against Wanderers.
Lachlan Sayers (Brisbane City): Sayers has been a staple of City’s engine room over their opening nine fixtures, spraying passes and splitting defences while opening his season account with a sumptuous volley versus Knights.
Taylor Walkinshaw (Sunshine Coast Wanderers): Possessing real drive as he bombs down the flank from fullback, Walkinshaw has been among Wanderers’ top performers this season and will be tough for Knights to handle.
Words: Angus Barnes
Image: Ian Judd/Lions FC