Sunshine Coast FC’s fourth straight win lifted them to third on the table after edging out SWQ Thunder 2-1 at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday.
An own goal 15 minutes from full-time ultimately sealed the points for Fire after Kaine Frew’s first-half strike was cancelled out in the second half by Thunder’s Chris Hewson.
A quick-fire start from the hosts saw Thunder under early pressure – with an early Ray Shultz free-kick resulting in an unconvincing clearance.
On the quarter hour Reyze Kelly was played through one-on-one with Thunder keeper Nicholas Andrews, however the debutant acted decisively to shut-down the Fire attacker.
Paul Arnison replaced the injured Ryan De Chastel midway through the half and struck the crossbar only minutes after entering the fray.
Thunder finally saw their first clear-cut chance of the match shortly after when Nykodah Smith forced a solid stop from Fire custodian Dale Hill.
However, the momentum remained firmly with the hosts and the breakthrough came just before the interval when Arnison’s cross picked out the unmarked Frew to deliver a headed finish.
Thunder received an immediate lifeline though when Jonathan Ladic conceded a penalty, however Hill proved up to task to deny Hewson’s spot-kick.
After the restart Hill again proved Thunder’s nemesis, delivering a sharp save to deny Jackson Franke one-on-one.
Fire were then frustrated by the woodwork twice more as Kenya Takahashi’s header struck the crossbar just prior to the hour before Kelly also struck the post ten minutes later.
However, Thunder sensationally levelled terms midway through the half on the counter attack when Hewson delivered a composed finish after being teed up by Colin Ball on 12 yards.
Ultimately the hard-work came to nought though when only minutes later the visitors conceded an own goal after Jacob Fulluck’s shot was blocked by Andrews but inadvertently ushered over the line by the covering defender.
There was late controversy though as Fire were forced to see out the match with ten men – Rhys Roberts dismissed for offensive conduct following a strong challenge, prompting an impassioned response from player-coach Arnison in particular.
Speaking post-match, Thunder coach Chris Wilkes said despite recording a fifth straight loss he was happy with the vigour of his young charges.
“The boys are gutted inside obviously to have lost, but it was an improvement,” he stated.
Fire goalkeeper Hill also found spoke well of the contest put up by Toowoomba-based club.
“Obviously getting the result is a positive but South West come to play and full credit to them – they took the game to us,” he said.
Sunshine Coast FC 2 (Kaine FREW 41’, own goal 76’)
SWQ Thunder FC 1(Chris HEWSON 72’)