With a final scoreline that belied what was a heated contest, Western Pride Under 18 Boys fell 6-1 to Sunshine Coast Fire FC at Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Saturday evening.
Despite recent results, the Pride squad had been steadily improving under coach Dan Burnell over the last few months, and that improvement showed early against the more fancied Sunshine Coast team.
In a see-sawing first half, both sides enjoyed prolonged periods of control; the visitors peppered the goals early, but it was the Pride who had the better of the chances.
A 20th minute free kick found the head of Joshua Singam, whose attempt just grazed the top of the crossbar. Moments later Jonathan Ward shot from 20 yards, but was easily held by the Fire’s keeper.
What opportunities the visitors had in the first half were pressured well by the Pride, whose hustle in defence was well marshalled by Dylan Williams in goal.
Unfortunately for our boys, they could not hold out forever. A free kick struck low and hard into the box found the foot of a Sunshine Coast striker, who turned it in past Williams for the opening goal after 37 minutes of play.
The second half started in very different fashion however. Some good ball playing by the visitors meant Williams was caught off his line; a ball played back into the box was all that was needed to double the Fire’s advantage only five minutes into the second half.
As the temperature dropped the game began to open up, with the Sunshine Coast side starting to show their class with regular attempts on goal. True to form however, our boys remained stout in defence, repeatedly denying the visitors.
It was not until a dubious foul caught the Pride defence napping that the Fire managed to extend their advantage. The 18 yard strike beat Williams at his far post and the visitors had a 3-nil advantage just after the hour mark. Minutes later, a not-so dubious foul inside the box gifted Sunshine Coast a fourth goal, with the subsequent penalty converted.
Two further goals late in the half pushed the margin out to 6-nil, before a brilliantly struck ball from Tyler Wilson found the top-left corner of the net to peg back a goal just before full-time.
Despite the loss -and if the first half is anything to go by- Burnell seemingly has our boys well placed for a breakthrough win in the coming weeks.