Hills class carries Strikers, but MCU show promise
BETTER but not our best.
That was the summary from Magpies Crusaders coach Thomas Ballantyne following the 2-nil defeat to Brisbane Strikers tonight.
On a wet and muggy evening at Sologinkin Oval, the class of Fraser Hills proved the difference.
The Strikers number seven spurned two quality chances, the first inside two minutes, but made up for it in the second half with a classy brace.
Twice Hills made a back post run that was left unchecked by the Mackay defence, and twice he made the home side pay with a tap-in.
For 60 minutes Ballantyne’s men proved the equal of their more fancied visitors – perhaps not in skill, but certainly on the scoreboard and in intent.
Hundreds turned out despite the wet weather to witness a 20-minute first half period in which the hosts could be disappointed they did not score.
First Lathan Dunn had a shot deflected from the top of the 18 yard box, then Belgian import Jordy Vleugels’ free kick glanced off the defensive wall and over the crossbar.
Kyren Walters’ sizzling cross minutes later found the head of stand-in skipper Dylan D’Agostino but he too marginally missed the mark.
Mackay had fewer chances in the second half, but importantly so-too did their opposition.
That was until Hills picked the lock with his first back post run on the hour mark.
The breakthrough goal steadied the ship for the visitors and, with wind in their sails and Magpies Crusaders legs tiring fast, Hills’ second five minutes from time put the contest to bed.
“The message was ‘lads, we did really well. You got applauded by the fans for showing some grit and determination, for fighting and battling’. That was a big improvement on last week and a big improvement on previous incarnations of MCU,” coach Ballantyne said post-match.
“To see that level of determination (during the game) and the frustration the boys showed afterwards just shows we’re going in the right direction.”
Ballantyne lamented the spurned chances in the first half but with a sly grin admitted “that’s just football”.
“The cliche in football is goals change games,” he said.
“I thought we sat deep and held our shape really well tonight. If we’d have gotten that goal, they have to open up and chase us on a hot and muggy night and it changes the balance completely.
“It just didn’t quite come off as we wanted it to.”
Ballantyne promised another improved performance next weekend, when his side travels to face Moreton Bay United.
“We went from touched up last week to making (Strikers) have to battle and scrap. Next week we’ll go up another level and by the fourth week, we’ll know 100% where we stand,” he said.