Palm Beach v Sunshine Coast Fire

Palm Beach SC kept their Finals Series hopes alive with a 3-1 win over Sunshine Coast FC at Mallawa Complex on Saturday night.

Tim Jackson delivered a first-half brace for the hosts before captain Justyn McKay wrapped up the points late in the second half prior to a consolation goal to Fire’s Raymond Schultz.

The result continues a horror mid-season stretch for Fire, who are now winless in their past eight PlayStation® 4 NPL Queensland matches – a run that extends back to early May.

Despite a relatively even start to the contest, Sharks saw the better of the early chances as Rhys Duncan and Roman Hofmann drew saves from Fire goalkeeper Dale Hill either side of the quarter hour.

Fire’s Kenya Takahashi threatened soon after when his flick-on from Schultz’s free-kick forced a scrambling save from Sharks custodian Shane Viitakangas.

However, the hosts broke through for the opener on the half hour when Jackson headed home his first PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland goal from Hofmann’s cross after Fire failed to clear a Sharks corner.

Fire threatened again from a set-piece only minutes later but were unable to fashion an equaliser when striker Jacob Fulluck hoisted the ball over the crossbar.

Another set-piece saw Sharks double their advantage just before half-time as Hofmann again found Jackson from a corner kick – the defender delivering another strong headed finish.

Fire proved more threatening after the restart, however the first clear cut chance of the second half was fashioned by Duncan, who forced a stretched save from Hill.

The hosts suffered a blow just prior to the hour when experienced defender Kristian Rees was forced from the field with injury.

Fire sought to take advantage with a repeated series of attacking raids but could not capitalise against a stubborn Sharks defence – Kaine Frew and Kenya Takahashi both failing to find the target with the most clear cut of the opportunities.

In the final minutes, Sharks sealed the result in spectacular fashion when McKay won possession before spotting Hill off his line and lobbing a dramatic finish from near half-way.

Fire found consolation in time added on when substitute Cameron Nairn struck the crossbar and Schultz drove home the rebound for his third of the campaign.

The result overturns Fire’s 3-1 victory over Sharks in the corresponding fixture at Sunshine Coast Stadium in April.

Speaking post-match, Sharks coach Grae Piddick expressed his delight at his side converting their chances after inconsistent returns in the front third this season.

“Obviously we need to score goals from open play but because we were getting in areas where they were forcing corners that’s why we scored the goals,” Piddick said.

Fire coach Paul Arnison said his side’s defending of set-pieces is a growing concern but he was pleased with the fight shown by his team after half-time.

“Going into the break two-nil down was an up-hill task but I thought the boys stuck to their jobs and put the effort in in the second half,” Arnison said.

Palm Beach SC  3 (Tim JACKSON 30’ 42’, Justyn MCKAY 88’)
Sunshine Coast FC  1 (Raymond SCHULTZ 90+3’)