The Brisbane Strikers tried five different strikers but couldnšt get the winning goal over the Football Kingz in a disappointing NSL match at Perry Park tonight.
Strikers player-coach Stuart McLaren moved himself up front, partnering second-gamer Matthew Hilton in a new-look attack. Rose, Brownlie and Morley took their places on a very attacking looking subs bench.
And for the first quarter of an hour, it looked like a master stroke. Brisbane were absolutely dominant and the Kingz simply couldnšt get out of their own half.
Steve Fitzsimmons started like a house on fire on Brisbanešs right flank, beating Mauro Donoso at will, and firing in dangerous crosses.
Peter Grierson had the first clear chance for the home team, shooting wastefully high when set up by McLaren. Hilton, Brain and Pilic were all buzzing, taking on defenders and pressuring the opposition when not in possession.
Kingzš Alexander Midtsian picked up an injury early and was replaced by Jeff Campbell.
Brisbane scored the opening goal after only 10 minutes, but the only surprise was that it had taken them this long. Karl Dodd intercepted a Kingz pass and released Matthew Hilton. Hilton turned his defender and looked up to see his boss Stuart McLaren charging through the middle. Hiltonšs pass was perfectly timed and McLaren tucked his shot neatly in the corner.
Beldham seemed the only player on the park for the Kingz, and he won them a free kick after 14 minutes. Chris Jackson stepped up to take it, and curled a ball into the far post that eluded all except the late arriving Jason Rowley. Higgins saved his stabbed volley, but couldnšt stop the second effort. 1-1, and Brisbane had just wasted their best start of the season.
In truth, the Strikers and the game in general never recovered. Brisbane remained on top for the rest of the first half, and made quite a few good chances without really testing Utting.
Pilic, Brain and Hilton all failed to hit the target when in good position, and at halftime Brisbane would have been ruing their wastefulness.
In the second half, Luciano Trani gradually introduced each member of that attacking bench. First Luke Morley replaced young Matthew Hilton. Then Josh Rose came on for Louis Brain, and finally Royce Brownlie replaced McLaren.
But it was all without success, as Brisbanešs fluency and penetration disappeared. The service to Morley from midfield was sporadic, but the couple of shooting chances he fashioned for himself were blocked by alert defenders.
In the end, the most charitable assessment would be that the Football Kingz worked hard for their point away from home. Ngata and Beldham gave the Strikers back three some anxious moments, and with more support might have embarrassed the home team further.
But it was really Brisbane that failed to produce their best football in the second half. In the first half their movement off the ball was outstanding, with a free player always appearing to give the man with the ball plenty of good options. In the second half, players in possession were forced to dribble as passing options were much more restricted.
The home team remains unbeaten at Perry Park this season, but that wonšt stop Stuart McLaren being angry that his side squandered two valuable points in this match. The game against Northern Spirit on Saturday night suddenly seems much more important.