Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin) – Innisfail
FNQ Heat will remain the NPL leaders after this weekend’s round with a 2-0 defeat of Redlands United in Innisfail on Saturday night.
After a dull and lacklustre first half from both teams, the match sprung to life in the second stanza with Crios O’Hare and league leading scorer Jamie Carroll delivering the goods for their side.
The Heat had the better of attacking opportunities inside the first ten minutes when Carroll pounced on a ball in the box that almost foiled Redlands keeper Brendan White but he was able to recover a fumbled save.
Carroll then had a free kick a minute later that was played straight into the Redlands wall.
After that period, it began to open a little more for the visitors. Delors Tuyishime was quickly ringed by three defenders as he attempted to go forward but with his back to goal, played a ball on for Michael Lee who shot from long distance in an attempt that deflected off defender Shimon Watanabe out for a corner.
The most promising attack for the Heat came midway through the half with an interchange between Jamie Gosling and Kieran Sanders that Gosling ultimately played through for O’Hare at the near post but a crunching tackle from a defender ensured no further progress.
Both sides then continued to exchange opportunities in the final fifteen minutes of the half but nothing that had the scoreboard attendant quivering with any nervousness.
Tuyishime had Heat keeper Kevin Ward half fumbling a cross played in from the left. Had the keeper not made a second effort in time, Russell Woodruffe was in close proximity to potentially poach a goal.
O’Hare headed on towards goal and almost gave White a fright after a deflection on the way through with Bronson Koppen doing the same minutes later.
The second half took on a completely different complexion. Sanders became more influential for his side in a five-minute period where he firstly hit a solid shot onto the cross bar, then made a deadly solo run down the right before delivering a cross in for O’Hare that White managed to narrowly grab in the nick of time then a shot that deflected out for a corner.
That pressure finally tolled on the Redlands defence when Jamie Gosling put in a ball from the left that saw some scrambling play in the box. O’Hare was on hand though to find a way through the pack and the league leaders took the lead.
Redlands coach Matt Chandler made a double change with under half an hour remaining with Russell Woodruffe and Igor Sao Jose making way for Stephen Green and Graham Fyfe. That had the result of stymying some of the Heat’s attacking ways.
With momentum swinging Redlands way again, Michael Lee blazed a good opportunity low across the face of goal.
Heat could have iced the game with ten minutes remaining when substitute Josh Pin played in O’Hare from the right who hard up against the by-line teed whose shot was saved by White only to be put back into the Heat’s attacking line for Gosling to fire from just outside the box, narrowly missing his target wide right.
Koppen tried to get into the action again as he blazed a bullet from long range that fell safely to White.
Danger was still to come for the Heat when Michael Lee sent a long-range into the box that Ward fumbled but recovered in the nick of time in front of Green in close proximity.
Carroll sealed the three points with a solo, threaded run through the defence and once he entered the box, he composed himself to chip over White.
FNQ Heat travel to Brisbane next week to meet the Strikers in what shapes up as a Premiership decider while Redlands play their round of 32 FFA Cup match midweek against the A-League’s Adelaide United then back up in the NPL at home on Saturday against bottom-place Northern Fury.
FNQ Heat 2 (Crios O’Hare 56’, Jamie Carroll 85’) v Redlands 0
FNQ Heat: Kevin Ward, Shimon Watanabe, Ari Isman, Jamie Gosling, Crios O’Hare, Jamie Carroll, Kieran Sanders (Josh Pin 75’), Darcy McCormack (Liam White 90’), Tamas Maffey-Stumpe, Matt Filip (Shaun Owens 88’), Bronson Koppen. Sub not used: Josh Wilson.
Redlands: Brendan White, Michael McGowan, Kai Halliday, Paul O’Brien, Jake Sherwood, Michael Lee, Russell Woodruffe (Stephen Green 63’), Adam Chandler, Delors Tuyishime, Igor Sao Jose (Graham Fyfe 63’), Sam Langley. Subs not used: Nick Danicic, Jono Burrowes
Referee: Rachel Mitchinson