Brisbane Strikers joined fellow NPL club Olympic FC in the FFA Cup Round of 32 after downing Brisbane Premier League champions Lions FC 3-2 in the Football Queensland Cup at Perry Park last night.
Star Strikers forward Matt Thurtell lit up the battle between the two former National Soccer League clubs with a first half hattrick – notching up a century of goals for the club in all competitions in the process.
Brodie Kenyon pulled Lions within a goal midway through the first half while Kentaro Ishikawa converted from the penalty spot in the 80th minute to set up a tense finish.
Thurtell’s first goal came from a set-piece when he headed home a corner kick from Scot Coulson.
He extended the home team’s lead with a deftly taken strike – his one hundredth – from ten yards when he was played in Strikers skipper Greg King.
Lions were helped back into the contest when Strikers centre half David Salin lost control of the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, allowing Brodie Kenyon to seize on the mistake.
However, Thurtell drifted behind Lions centre back Matija Simic to volley a teasing cross from Coulson across Zabaks and into the corner of his goal to give Strikers a 3-1 half time advantage.
Lions increased their intensity in the second half but found it difficult to penetrate a stubborn and well organized Strikers back line.
Strikers goalkeeper David Chambers saved shots from distance from Lions midfielder Andrew Butler and Kenyon to preserve the two-goal buffer going into the final stages.
Lions hopes were briefly raised when substitute Ramone Close was fouled inside the Strikers’ penalty area and Ishikawa converted the resulting penalty kick.
Speaking post-match, Thurtell said wasn’t aware that he was two goals shy of his century of goals for the Strikers going in to the contest.
He admitted his confidence was growing as he continues his return from a season-ending knee injury in last year’s NPL Queensland competition.
“After the performance on the weekend, when I probably could have scored two or three more, I felt like this was coming”, Thurtell said.
“I just felt like a performance from myself where I could be happy all-round was coming and I think it came tonight, finally.”
“It’s probably the first time since I’ve been back where I’ve been almost one-hundred percent happy,” he added.
Strikers will join fellow Brisbane-based NPL Queensland club Olympic FC in the FFA Cup Round of 32 which will be drawn on June 26th and has the potential to see the club renew rivalries with other former NSL clubs interstate.