Strikers v Spirit

Round 26 report by David Marshall
Brisbane Strikers v Northern Spirit

It's funny going to watch your team when you are not sure if they will exist after a couple more games. Usually the most you need fear is relegation. If only, eh?

Not so much moisture in the air as usual last night - but still some, mind you. I was off to a bad start, having reached my usual parking space an hour or so before kick off only to discover I'd left my bag at home. Only 10 minutes away, so 20 for the round trip. Such is the poor size of our crowds now that I was actually able to park closer to the ground the second time round! Oh, for those long off days when finding a park close to Lang Park could actually be a problem and leave you with a ten or fifteen minute walk to the ground.

The total crowd looked even smaller than last game and the Banana Army was down to half a platoon or so and as quiet as I can remember it being ever. I think the whole Socoz thing (as well demonstrated on OTB yesterday) is really starting to bite into even the die hards' enthusiasm. I'm finding it hard going myself in the face of what seems an unscaleable mountain of administrative ineptitude with just no-one seeming willing or able to either take responsibility or change anything in a positive way. Once again "Robbie's right", we DO need a clean start. Fat chance, but.

To the game. Spirit started as if they meant business and, but for really poor finishing, could have done us of by 15 minutes. Corey Baldock had on his teflon gloves last night, and also released the ball very poorly - either badly directed throws or pointless long punts which often saw the ball returned with interest. Paradoxically, he made some very good saves too and kept us alive at times. Gradually, the STRIKERS picked up the pace of the game and started to share, then shade the possession and, following a goal moth slap and tickle, Super Pete Grierson left footed along the ground through congestion and it was one nil to the STRIKERS. The remainder of the half remained just tipped toward us and 1-0 was probably a fair position at the drinks break.

A remarkable thing happened in the half time break. Despite the paucity of the crowd, the beer ran out!! Luckily for me, Kieth had got to the bar before I had and had a plastic container of what is an apology for the real thing waiting when I got back. It is so bad, that I wasn't really even upset that they had none left, but, cheers Kieth!

The Mad Bull was playing his 250th NSL game and in the first half was give his customary yellow card for what looked like a not too naughty first offence. I really think the refs scribble "18, Meredith" on their cards in the changing room before the games. I wonder if someone with a less tainted image would have got that card. I'm sure similar offences went uncarded, so to speak, last night. Spirit started the second half as they did the first, but again with no product and we once again began to shift the game our way when, with another defender covering, and his being not far from the half way line our Nicky was pulled up for a deliberate hand ball. I couldn't see from my angle, but it was very close to the shoulder. Nevertheless, he did move his arm towards the ball and, if it struck it, then he could have had no argument with the inevitable red card that followed. Same old scenario, Mad Bull sent off, lots of time left, STRIKERS struggling to hang on. How many points has the Bull cost us this season? I think he is often a ref target, but whether I'm right or wrong, it does make him a liability. Anyway, there was a certain suitability to his celebrating a landmark career game in this way. It was even worse last night as he had been staying back and playing in a very responsible and restrained "good boy" manner until the send off. I believe we will not see him again this season due to accumulated match bans. "There's only one Mad Bull!" Before we knew what had happened, Fernando went down like a proverbial, and was subbed off.

Despite these adversities, and all the help the Cranney Kiddie tried to give us (someone remarked it was the bast game he'd ever played for the STRIKERS - he did win us the only corner I can remember his earning for the team) we did manage to hang to the 88'th minute when a free kick taken from outside the box to the keeper's right went in, I think, off the far post (there you are, a newsletter and a fanzine title in one sentence). If we had had a defender on the line, we would have won. We well may have when, in injury time, Harris doggedly won the ball and presented Foster with a chance he would have gobbled up earlier in the season. He more or less chipped back to the keeper. So, 1-1, and no-one really gave a stuff. Not a good game and the chant of "A waste of Rangers' money" would be pretty close to the truth as far as an ordinary Spirit team was concerned. My favourite chant of the nigh, when songs were few and far between, was to Craig Foster (our Fossie's brother) - "Evil, Evil Twin!"

So the game lurches on with the Brisbane team and supporters in a horrid position of future uncertainty. Even if we survive, it's going to need some extraordinary (this time positive, too) events to get the "persona" STRIKERS going again next year.