Strikers through to FFA Cup final 32

Brisbane Strikers fended off a fast-finishing Redlands United 4-3 at Cleveland Showgrounds on Tuesday night to qualify for the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 for a second straight year.

Strikers led by three goals with a half hour remaining courtesy of a brace to star striker Jheison Macuace and further strikes to Fraser Hills and Trent Clulow.

However, the visitors were forced to survive a fighting finish from the Red Devils who netted the final two goals of the match to ensure a grand-stand finish.

Strikers are now the second Queensland club to advance to the national stages of the knock-out tournament, joining fellow PlayStation® 4 NPL Queensland team FNQ Heat.

A tentative start to the contest saw few clear cut chances for either side despite Redlands earning a string of early corners.

The match opened up just prior to the quarter hour when Macuace opened accounts via a stunning long-range strike across Redlands goalkeeper Brendan White.

Strikers then doubled the advantage seven minutes later as Hills delivered a tap in from close range after receiving a cross from Macuace.

Further chances were fashioned at both ends before the break as Strikers attacking midfielder Clulow forced a fingertip save from White and Lyndon Dykes pushed a headed attempt wide of the target for Redlands.

Less than a minute after the restart, Dykes dramatically made amends for his earlier miss – beating Strikers goalkeeper Michael Weier at the near post to halve the deficit.

However, Redlands hopes of a comeback appeared dashed as Strikers delivered twice in five minutes to extend their advantage to three goals.

Macuace delivered his second of the night with another long-range strike into the top corner, before Clulow seemingly sealed the win when he turned in a cross from Cameron Draper at the back post.

Tempers frayed just after the hour amidst a series of free-kicks, however Redlands soon regained their composure to reduce the margin once more – Igor Sao Jose turning home Grant Brix’s cross into an empty net.

Ten minutes later, Dykes benefitted from James Donelly’s clearance to launch a counter attack from half-way and deliver a composed finish to pull the hosts to within a goal.

A series of chances were spurned at both ends in a desperate finish to the contest , however Strikers eventually held on to record their first win against the Red Devils in 2015.

Strikers now await the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 draw next month, where they will be joined by Heat, Hyundai A-League powerhouse Brisbane Roar and two further qualifying Queensland clubs.

Speaking post-match, Strikers coach Kevin A’herne-Evans said his side need to learn how to close out matches, especially in cup football.

“I just think that we let them back into it and gave them hope early in the second half where that’s the time you really want to stifle them and take the game away from them,” he said.

Redlands Technical Director Matt Chandler juxtaposed his team’s performance as both “excellent and naïve”.

“There is a lot more experience possibly in the Strikers team than there is in ours and I think that just showed in the game tonight,” he said.

Redlands United FC  3 (Lyndon DYKES 46’ 78’, Igor SAO JOSE 68’
Brisbane Strikers FC  4 (Jheison MACUACE 14’ 51’, Fraser HILLS 23’, Trent CLULOW 55’)

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