Redlands premiership tilt stalls as Fire’s finals hopes rage

IMG_0618Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin)

After a lacklustre first half where Jeremy Stewart put the Fire ahead in first half stoppage time, a flurry of goals in a twenty-minute period after halftime has seen Sunshine Coast Fire remain in the thick of contention for a finals berth after a 3-2 win against Redlands at the Cleveland Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

Redlands newcomer Lucas Chaim scored both goals for the home side after coming on at halftime while Paul Mikula and Shoichi Koshimizu added to the Fire’s tally in the second half.

The match took a good quarter-hour to warm up despite the Fire dominating possession and attacking territory during that period.

A corner from Matt Lyell almost snuck across the goal line but Redlands keeper Jono Burrowes was able to punch away in time while under pressure in a crowded box.

Fire came close again minutes later when midweek recruit Drew Jeskey played a ball into the box that Scott Rocker narrowly missed getting a touch on towards goal.

Redlands then created their own chances, both from outside the box. Firstly Igor Sao Jose forced a diving save from Sam Nickolls and then Graham Fyfe tried what only Graham Fyfe can. From 35 yards out, he spotted Nickolls off his line and attempted a lob over the keeper and that part was successful but the ball failed to dip in time under the crossbar.

While Fire continued with the advantage in terms of stats, it was Stephen Green who produced opportunities for the home side as Nickolls was called into action again at fingertips before Green should have done better moments later steering a good opportunity high and wide.

As the teams were preparing to enter the sheds for halftime, Redlands were guilty of failing to clear a long throw-in that was delivered into the box and Stewart poked a ball through a crowded pack from near ten yards to give the Fire the advantage at oranges.

That advantage was almost doubled in the five-minute period after the break with Mikula heading a corner down into the turf that bounced towards goal but ultimately fell wide.

It would be Redlands who would get on level terms though as new acquisition Chaim scored as he took full toll of Nickolls being unable to hold onto a ball, obstructed looking into the setting western sun.

Five minutes later, Fire gained the ascendency again with Mikula on hand hard up against the back post to head home.

There were premature celebrations for Rocker midway through the half. Stewart played a cross that become a shot in towards Burrowes who couldn’t grasp properly and Rocker was on hand to pick up the scraps only to see the assistant’s flag raised for offside. To add injury to insult, he was booked for his ‘post-goal’ celebration.

That disappointment was short lived as Stewart officially claimed an assist with Koshimizu turning a ball across the face to extend the lead out to two goals.

However, the see-sawing half continued and Chaim collected his brace after rounding an advancing Nickolls and curling a shot from the edge of the box into the net.

Stewart continued to threaten the Redlands backline with yet another ball into the box that Burrowes failed to claim. The rebound falling onto substitute Paul Brownlie’s head and glanced the outside of the upright.

Nickolls kept his side in the lead in the dying stages pulling off a sharp save to deny Paul O’Brien.

Brownlie could have ended the nervousness for Fire supporters in stoppage time but Burrowes pulled off a great save to deny him only to see the ball fall for Jordan Loy who shot wide with Burrowes committed and off his line.

With the five other matches in the round still to be played, the result lifts Sunshine Coast into sixth while Redlands, currently in fourth, will be overtaken by Brisbane City if they can gain a draw or better in their match against FNQ Heat.

Redlands 2 (Lucas Chaim 51’, 73’) v Sunshine Coast Fire 3 (Jeremy Stewart 45’, Paul Mikula 56’, Shoichi Koshimizu 70’)

Redlands: Jono Burrowes, Grant Brix (Nick Danicic 57’), Kai Halliday (Michael McGowan 57’), Paul O’Brien, Jake Sherwood, Michael Lee, Stephen Green (Lucas Chaim 46’), Graham Fyfe, Adam Chandler, Igor Sao Jose, Sam Langley. Subs not used: Tyler Brayley-Combe, Nick Danicic, Michael McGowan, Matt Lugo

Sunshine Coast Fire: Sam Nickolls, Jeremy Stewart (Kobe Fuller 78’), Chris Jancevski, Scott Rocker (Paul Brownlie 72’), Grant De Chastel, Drew Jeskey, Alex Warrilow (Connor Hanock 67’), Jordan Loy, Matt Lyell, Paul Mikula, Shoichi Koshimizu. Subs not used: Brady Cronk.

Referee: Lara Lee