Strikers come from behind twice to keep premiership race tight

IMG_4505Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin)

The Brisbane Strikers have had to come from behind twice to remain within striking distance of league leaders FNQ Heat after a 3-2 defeat of Gold Coast City.

In a match where both sets of defences will lament lapses at key stages, Benji Lyvidikos was able to open the scoring in the first ten minutes before a late first-half reply from Jake McLean. Nik Mirkovic put the coasters back in the lead again shortly after the break but goals to Fraser Hills and Trent Clulow in a seven-minute period turned out to seal the three points for the home side.

Things got off to a willing start when Rhys Meredith was booked inside the first five minutes after collecting a Gold Coast City player who was on his way toward goal. That set the tone for a sometime fiery match with referee Adam Kersey dishing out a number of cautions.

The opening goal came when Gold Coast City were able to launch an attack from inside their own penalty box. After a Strikers corner played in was won by Tim Jackson, Daniel Dragecevic was able to be set free with a damaging run down the left. He sprinted past Hiroki Omori before cutting back for Benji Lyvidikos and with Strikers keeper Seb Usai already committed at the near post, put into an empty net from inside the six-yard area.

Meredith then had two chances on goal for his side. Firstly as he zeroed in on goal but took a heavy touch inside the area that allowed Gold Coast custodian Shane Viitakangas to recover for a save. Viitakangas was also involved in Meredith’s next effort with the keeper unable to get an effective punch away, the Strikers’ forward was lurking in close proximity and able to get a shot away that was deflected for a corner by Jackson.

The Strikers were reduced to ten men for a short period after Greig Henslee was forced from the field after copping a stray elbow to his forehead that resulted in blood coming from a gash that needed heavy strapping contain the bleeding.

The home side began to get themselves back into the match with around ten minutes remaining in the first half and found an equaliser going into the break when Viitakangas failed to hold a free kick. McLean was able to capitalise on the confusion in the City defensive line and with Viitakangas still on the ground, volleyed into the net.

After the restart, Strikers weren’t able to capitalise on their momentum after an uncharacteristic mistake from Usai that feel for Mirkovic who won the battle to get the ball first and poked in to restore the visitor’s one-goal advantage.

Another lacklustre defensive effort was the cause of the Strikers second equaliser. From a corner, the City defence were unable to clear effectively and with an almighty scrap inside the six-yard box and multiple attempts on goal from the Strikers, Marsh bobbed up to see the score go to 2-2.

The Strikers went ahead for the first time on the night after Viitakangas punched away a free kick that came directly to Clulow and from 25 yards out decided to take his chances, managing to steer a wonder goal through a crowded pack.

More ebbs and flows as Sam Knight dodged with danger deep in the area as he played across the face but luckily the Gold Coast attacker was unable to make the defender pay for his mistake.

With other results from the round, the Strikers will be in a clear second place on the ladder after the weekend’s matches have concluded while Gold Coast City remain in a crowded mid-table pack fighting for a top four finals berth.

Brisbane Strikers 3 (Jake McLean 43’, Fraser Hills 58’, Trent Clulow 65’) v Gold Coast City 2 (Benji Lyvidikos 11’, Nik Mirkovic 48’)

Brisbane Strikers: Seb Usai, Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Fraser Hills (Chris Maher 72’), Michael Angus, Rhys Meredith (Luke Marsh 81’), Shaun Carlos (Jonti Richter 75’), Sam Knight, Jake McLean, Hiroki Omori, Trent Clulow. Subs not used: Michael Weier.

Gold Coast City: Shane Viitakangas, Tim Jackson, Martin Vasquez, Riley Dillon, Justyn McKay, Roman Hofmann (Jaiden Walker 71’), Nik Mirkovic, Austin Ludwik, Daniel Dragicevic (Rhys Saunders 55’), Benji Lyvidikos (Zamin Tselepy 75’). Subs not used: Riley Thomson-King, Garion Vogel.

Referee: Adam Kersey. Assistant referees: Joey Lee, James Sherry. 4th Official: Justin Temple