An enthusiastic Brisbane Strikers side deservedly took home all three points in their season opener against Northern Spirit at Pittwater Park tonight. The Strikers comprehensively outplayed their lackluster opponents to run out 3-1 victors, courtesy of a first half double to debutant Luke Morley and a second half strike from Joshua Rose.
As for the Spirit, what was supposed to be the start of a new era for the club turned out to be a disaster, with John Hutchinsonıs goal early in the second half the only high point of an otherwise thoroughly disappointing performance.
Rookie NSL coach Stuart McLaren was singing his teamıs praises after only 14 minutes when Morley scored not only his first NSL goal, but the first NSL goal ever at Pittwater Park.
The smallish crowd of 2,971 became increasingly frustrated with the home sides showing, especially as they were touted to be one of the 'quickest off the block' this year, due to their lack of turnover in the off-season.
Joshua Rose, who performed exceptionally for the most part, showed great poise in rounding several of the Spiritıs defence before offloading to Morley who slotted home.
Instead, it was rare that the Spirit strung passages of more than three passes together at a time and went more than three minutes without conceding a foul.
Morley was on hand again in first half injury time to double the visitors lead, courtesy of some fantastic lead up from Shane Stefanutto, who gave Spirit newcomer Mark Milligan a torrid time down the left wing for the first 45.
Consequently, Milligan was subbed at halftime for striker Adam Kwasnik, so to give the home side more attacking purpose. The results were instantaneous, as in only the sixth minute of the second stanza, John Hutchinson was on hand to parry in a rebound to a Stewart Petrieıs shot. This gave the home fans something to cheer about and restored some pride in what had so far not been a memorable night for the Spirit.
Less than ten minutes later, Petrie almost put the North Shore boys on level terms but for a fantastic save from Jason Kearton. Petrie shot on the turn after a quick Ian Ferguson free-kick but the Brisbane custodian was up to the task.
That was essentially the last throw of the dice for Spirit, as within minutes, Rose reinstated the visitors two goal cushion after the home sideıs defence gave possession away cheaply on the fringe of the penalty area.
Had it not been for some heroic saves from the only remaining foundation Spirit player Paul Henderson, the scoreline could have been far worse for the home side.
As it stands, Stuart McLaren can be most pleased with his sidesı performance. They showed determination and desire that was unparalleled by the home team, and after such an uncertain off-season, the Strikers can look ahead with much optimism after such a terrific performance.
Of particular note was the performance of Joshua Rose who on todayıs effort looks like a suitable replacement for Anthony Roche.
As for Spirit, Lawrie McKinna must be wondering where the passion and hunger that exuded for Spiritıs game in the latter stages of last season had gone. With the exception of Henderson, none of his charges really rose to the occasion today.