North Pine go back-to-back in pre-Christmas derby

By Rafe Griffin (@griffofootball)

Newly promoted North Pine was able to strike a psychological edge going into the season proper after defeating near neighbours Peninsula Power 2-1 on Sunday afternoon in an all-Brisbane Premier League friendly at AJ Kelly Park.

It was the second successive year that the Gorillas have prevailed in this fixture in what might provide incoming coach Wayne Heath an indicator of what his side could be capable of in 2016.

Action was sparse in the first quarter of hour but Rinichi Mikami, returning to Power after leaving the club midway through last season, brought the match to life in extraordinary circumstances as he almost curled a corner directly into the back of the net.

Minutes later, North Pine’s defence failed to clear a ball in their penalty box and new Power recruit, Kado Aoci came close to taking full advantage, narrowly put his strike over the crossbar.

Immediately after at the other end of the park, Shaw was denied a penalty claim in what the referee deemed to be a fair shoulder charge by Mikami.

Aoci got himself involved again midway through the first period, weaving his way through North Pine’s backline, the defence eventually clearing but only as far as Aoci’s teammate Chris Swain who fired in a long range effort that ended not far wide of the upright.

Tall, rangy former Northern Fury player Jani Puet was next to attempt to tee Aoci up, delivering a pinpoint cross that the renowned striker glanced off his head and wide of the post.

Power seemed to have most of the attacking momentum inside the first half hour but it would be North Pine that would score first. The home side unable to effectively clear their defensive lines, Josh Hall was able to win the pinball match, having his initial effort cleared off the line. That only went as far as Alistair Russell who drove the ball through the pack to give his side a 1-0 lead.

From the restart, North Pine got the ball back and immediately made it 2-0 as Russell notched up a double, this time converting from the corner of the penalty box.

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Picture: Alistair Russell bagged two goals in two minutes for North Pine.

That provided a wake-up call for last season’s Grand Final winners. Ten minutes from the halftime break, they were inches from getting one back after being denied by the woodwork that agonisingly slowed the ball down and allowed Matt Bradley to collect before crossing the goalline.

In a show of what he is capable of, Aoci with back to the goal, pivoted and turned at the edge of the penalty box and with a delightful strike, opened his side’s account and 2-1 it was at the break.

If Aoci was the one to show his wares for his new club in the first half, Charles Mendy gave significant glimpses of his capabilities in the second stanza. The Frenchman, who has come across in the off-season from NPL Premiers Moreton Bay, cut swathes through his opponents.

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Picture: Peninsula’s new forward spearheads. Charles Mendy (left) and Kado Aoci (right).

While not adding to his side’s tally on the scoreboard, he created plenty of opportunities for himself and teammates. It’s an interesting dichotomy for Power coach Terry Kirkham with his two marquee signings. Mendy is a dominant force aerially while Aoci prefers delivery at his feet, a frustration felt by the latter during the match and an adjustment that those feeding the ball will need to make.

North Pine weren’t without their chances to extend their lead. Brodie Smith had former Sunshine Coast Fire ‘keeper Antony Hall beaten but the attempt clattered off the intersection between the crossbar and the right upright.

Swain could have almost found the equaliser for Power right on full-time with a 40-yard free kick but was unable to caress the ball to dip under the bar in time.

The two sides will meet again at the same venue in round two of the BPL.

Peninsula Power 1 (Kado Aoci 39′) v North Pine 2 (Alistair Russell 32′, 33′)

Peninsula: Antony Hall (GK), Luke Plummer, Jani Puet, Chris Maticic, Rinichi Mikami, Scott McNeil, Matt Sauer, Chris Swain, Matt Sanchez, Kado Aoci, Charles Mendy, Myles Carseldine, Jack Porter, Locky Evans, Zac Born, Yosufu Bwisengo, Thomas Gilbert, Alex Manelli (GK).

North Pine: Matt Bradley (GK), Steve Melville, Chris Culleton, Josh Hall, Alistair Russell, Tom Hunter, Andy Lincoln, Paul Brownlie, James Fairgrieve, Jake Keslake, Jay Brindell-South, Ash Shaw, Michael Armstrong, Brodie Smith, Jarad Brownlie (GK).

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