Weather has played havoc with the BLK Silver Boot and the Macron Cup pre-season competitions so to fill the void, we thought we’d assess the matches that have been played in the pre-season competitions so far and look at the players, particularly those are new to the south-east corner or changed clubs in the off-season, that caught our eye in the early part of the pre-season.
Olympic v UQFC (8-0)
Despite losses of key personnel in the off-season, the Olympic machine was straight back into top gear and in a major positive, a defence that has proven leaky over the past two years, kept a clean sheet.
UQFC started behind the eight-ball with their preparations, the final Trophy Superstore Premier League club to appoint a coach for this season and there aren’t too many tougher first-up tests than the 2014 NPL Grand Finalists.
Mustafa Jafari (Olympic) – Came on as a substitute around the hour mark and had an immediate impact scoring a hat-trick which could have easily turned into a return of four or five with some better luck in finishing opportunities. Already proven he can turn a game with crucial goals in the FFA Cup qualifier against Wolves FC and then the FFA Cup main event against Melbourne Knights and the interest as the season goes on will be whether he can claim a regular starting position or will coach Jim Bellas continue to use him as an impact player coming off the bench.
Ashvin Tharumanathan (UQFC) – Hard to find positives in a side that suffers an eight-goal defeat but Tharumanathan was the shining light for UQFC. Playing 13 matches in the seniors for the students last year and may be a familiar name to some having played for the Toowoomba Raiders and Downlands College up on the Darling Downs in previous years. Never gave up despite the accumulating scoreline against his side and looked extremely lively operating down the left wing.
Brisbane Strikers v Logan Lightning (3-0)
The scoreline may indicate the Strikers did it comfortably but that doesn’t really reflect how the match truly played out. Logan were not without chances to take a result and had a goal ruled out at 1-0 down in the second half with a questionable offside decision. Had that stood, it would have made for a grandstand finish but it was two goals in the final five minutes that provided the NPL side with the three points.
Michael Adarkwah (Logan) – Very handy pick-up for Logan having impressed in Capital 2 last year with Park Ridge. Easily recognisable on the park with his solid build, he looked strong on the ball used his strength to hustle his opponents off the ball. Being a big man, he can tire a little as the match wears on so it will be curious to see how he handles the pace of the Premier League.
Jaspal Benning (Logan) – Replaced Adarkwah at half-time and makes the step-up from Capital 1’s Bayside to Brisbane’s top flight. Had a return of nine goals last year and 14 in 2013 for Mt Gravatt, his strength is his pace and ability to make piercing runs into the box. Will be interesting to see how coach Nick Croydon utilises he and Adarkwah in future matches.
Jheison Macuace (Strikers) – With Matt Thurtell’s departure to the NPL Victoria and the 150-plus goals he scored over recent years going with him, a concern for the Strikers may have been where the goals were going to come from this year. It appears there’ll be no worries at all with Macuace stepping up to the plate, scoring a brace in this match after a three-goal haul in a friendly against Moggill four days prior.
Rochedale Rovers v Brisbane City (3-0)
Rochedale’s off-season recruiting, combined with the retention of key personnel, provided good early signs that fortunes will turn around at Underwood Park in 2015. Whereas Brisbane City, despite having around 60% possession, couldn’t get any traction in their forward third.
Daryll Grant (Rochedale) – A product of the Manchester City Academy and Manchester United Youth team, was solid at right back while also contributing at the opposite end of the park scoring the Rovers first goal on the night. Having come from the cold climbs of the UK, still looks like he is getting used to the heat and humidity of his new environment, having to leave the park on the hour mark with severe cramp.
Dermot McCaffrey (Rochedale) – The former under-21 Northern Ireland international and Scottish Premier League in combination with Todd Gava, virtually shut-down any service that City tried to provide to their noted marksman, Antonio Murray.
Curran Ferns (City) – Joins the Newmarket club from NPL Tasmania side Tilford Zebras and showed why he was named in that league’s all-star team last year. Looked very likely in the City midfield with both his attacking and defensive play and appears to be a vital cog in City’s chances for this year.
Capalaba v Ipswich Knights (4-1)
Two sides traditionally known for their physicality, it was more of the same in this match. In the first half-hour, neither side really looked like troubling the scoresheet but as the first half wore on, Capalaba started to get in their groove and stalwart Josh Sherwood gave the Bulldogs a half-time lead. Capalaba went on with the match from there, apart from a blip with 15 minutes to go where they momentarily fell asleep allowing the Knights to score as well as allowing a couple of chances to make things interesting.
Jose Mojica-Rodriguez (Capalaba) – A goalscorer on the night, put in a decent shift up front and possesses a way to get in between defenders where there wasn’t a lot of room to move in. Positive sides for the Bulldogs in he and Josh Sherwood working in tandem in the attacking third of the park.
No out and out stand-outs for the Knights but new coach Stewart Drinkeld would have come away from the match knowing the work that needs to be done to be competitive in this year’s Trophy Superstore Premier League.