Brisbane Strikers revitalised their Premiership hopes with a 2-1 win over a ten-man Palm Beach SC at Perry Park on Sunday afternoon.
Mid-season recruit Apai Ukuno opened the scoring for Strikers in his first start for the club before Greg King wrapped up the result on the hour from the penalty spot.
Roman Hofmann converted a late consolation for Sharks but it wasn’t enough to prevent a second straight defeat for the Gold Coast club and significantly dent their ambitions of a top four finish.
Both sides threatened early but spurned their opening opportunities – Strikers’ Trent Clulow and Sharks’ Nik Mirkovic both sending shots over the crossbar inside the opening ten minutes.
With both sides desperate for the win, chances proved scant until midway through the half.
Sharks failed to make the most of a chance to open accounts prior to the half hour when Hofmann skewed an attempt wide after Justyn McKay and Kristian Rees combined to create the opportunity.
Strikers received a blow on the half-hour when defender Cameron Draper was forced from the ground with a knee injury.
However, the hosts rebounded to open the scoring only minutes later as Ukuno headed home from close range courtesy of a pin-point Fraser Hills cross for his second goal in just his fifth PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland appearance.
Strikers held the lead into the second half when Sharks’ again threatened early as Florian Matk called up Strikers goalkeeper Fraser Chalmers to save.
Sharks defender Rees conceded a penalty and earned a yellow card on the hour as he brought down Jesse Weimers inside the area – allowing King to convert the ensuing spot-kick.
Frustrations boiled over for the veteran defender soon after when he clattered into Ukuno and received a second yellow card – becoming the third Sharks player to see red in the 2015 league campaign.
Sharks goalkeeper Shane Viitakangas denied Weimers with the subsequent free-kick before Strikers sought to close out the result.
The visitors finished strongly despite their numerical disadvantage with McKay forcing a fingertip save from Chalmers with five minutes remaining.
Sharks pulled a goal back late in time added when Hofmann nodded home for his fourth goal of the campaign, however it was not enough to prevent Strikers from securing a 2015 league double over Sharks.
Speaking post-match, Strikers coach Kevin A’herne-Evans said his side had adjusted well to a forced tactical change and did well to bounce back following a three-goal defeat to Northern Fury last weekend.
“The last week was really draining on us emotionally and with all the travel as well. But to come here and play against a good Palm Beach team 2-1 – I can’t have many complaints,” A’herne-Evans said.
Sharks coach Grae Piddick said the result was indicative of his team’s up-and-down season and his team “lost their cool”.
“There are some discipline issues there. That certainly sent us down to ten men but quite a few cards for things that are preventable,” Piddick said.
Brisbane Strikers FC 2 (Apai UKUNO 35’, Greg KING 62’p)
Palm Beach SC 1 (Roman HOFMANN 90+3’)