Sunshine Coast FC are officially out of the NPL Queensland Finals Series race following a 1-0 defeat against Redlands United at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides were reduced to ten men in the second half before Igor Sao Jose delivered the decisive strike in the final minutes of regular time to guide Redlands to a fifth straight win.
The result sees Redlands regain a three point advantage over their rivals in the race of fourth place, while for Fire the match marks a tenth straight defeat and consigns the club to a second straight season without finals football.
Redlands dominated the match for extended periods and started brightly with a series of early chances.
Player-coach Graham Fyfe struck the post inside the opening ten minutes for the visitors before also threatening from a free-kick.
Fire fashioned a pair of chances to open accounts approaching the quarter hour but Brady Cronk and Kenya Takahashi both sent their attempts over the crossbar.
Redlands continued to see the better of possession for the remainder of the half but clear cut scoring opportunities proved elusive as Fire battled to save their season, with Lyndon Dykes and Fyfe both resorting to attempts from distance.
Takumi Kinoshita came closest to breaking the deadlock five minutes before half-time – his curling strike forcing a telling save from Red Devils goalkeeper Brendan White.
Fire suffered a significant setback when Kinoshita was shown a straight red car shortly after the restart after impeding Dykes inside the box.
However, the Red Devils failed to make the most of the opportunity as Fyfe’s penalty was saved by Fire goalkeeper Kevin Downes.
The visitors sought to make amends by applying further attacking pressure, resulting in Fire clearing a pair of chances off their goal line midway through the half.
Downes continued to prove defiant as the match entered the final quarter hour saving further attempts from Elliott Ronto and Fyfe.
Clearly frustrated, Redlands’ passions boiled over with ten minutes remaining as Nico Bechar was dismissed for dissent after a goal mouth scramble saw blocks from Jared Moore twice deny the visitors at close range.
However, the visitors continued to push forward following the send-off resulting in Sao Jose finally finding the back of the net for his team in the final minutes – his seventh goal of the league campaign.
Speaking post-match, Redlands Technical Director Matt Chandler said if his side can continue their habit of winning tight matches the Final Series will be a just reward.
“Top four for us is an achievable outcome and if we do it it will be astonishing considering how we started the season,” Chandler said.
Fire coach Paul Arnison commended the efforts of his players and said despite the Finals Series being out of reach, he was looking to end the season on a high.”
“I’d like to finish off on a little winning streak if we can – we’re going to go into every game trying to win it,” Arnison said.
Sunshine Coast FC 0
Redlands United FC 1 (Igor SAO JOSE 89’)