Courage, commitment and comeback in Pride’s electric finish
A COURAGEOUS captain who should not have played. A rising talent who savoured his first senior team goal. Desperation off the goal line that denied a deserved victory.
Western Pride's latest Football Queensland Premier League encounter on home turf had it all.
Head coach Andrew Catton praised his tenacious skipper Nielen Brown for playing the game despite battling an ankle injury in the warm-up.
Brown was destined to sit out the match before wanting to lead his side already hit hard with injury.
"He had no right to play,'' Catton said.
But after Catton agreed minutes before the match to let him continue, Brown produced another mighty effort in helping his side salvage a 2-2 draw against Holland Park at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
As he always does, midfielder Brown kept running and setting up attack despite his limited mobility. It was real leading by example captaincy.
Striker Jackson Bray scored his first goal at Premier League level having been with Pride since under-16s. He had shared in the club's under-18 grand final success in 2018.
Now 20, Bray was delighted to have netted Pride's opening goal before halftime after Holland Park threatened to extend a 2-0 advantage.
He finished off a superb angled cross from experienced defender Kelton Scriggins who ignited his side after the early slump.
"I've been waiting for a while and it's finally come,'' Bray said.
"I've got a lot of mates here and we're just like brothers. We really help each and support each other.''
That united approach was needed in the second half after another sluggish Pride start.
Clearly frustrated with his side's first half effort, Catton was pleased how much resolve his side showed after the break, finishing the game the better side.
"The first 45 minutes was terrible,'' Catton said. "We just made very stupid errors.
"They (Holland Park) are a team that are so dangerous and we didn't adjust in the first half.
"The second half was outstanding.''
The tremendous fightback came a week after Pride lost 4-0 to Rochedale.
"We've experienced the highs and lows of football in two weeks,'' Catton said, highlighting a particular concern approaching the end of the delayed premier league season.
"We are so light on. We are down to about 13 senior players,'' he said.
Another youth talent Darry Barton was among the late substitutes gaining more top level experience with a growing injury toll.
Catton praised his players, like Brown, for toiling hard and lifting the second half tempo.
Bray came off for the second half being one of the side's many players dealing with injuries.
"I had a bit of a back niggle of late,'' he said. "But I've been feeling good the last couple of games so I just don't want to overdo it.''
Watching from the sideline after his important contribution, Bray could only share in the pain of missed opportunities.
Yuta Hirayama equalised with two minutes of regular time left, as Pride's fast and skilful young guns relentlessly pounded the Holland Park goal.
Two desperate clearances off the line, some fine goalkeeping deflections and the crossbar denied Pride a deserved eighth victory for the season.
"It was pretty exciting. I wanted to be out there and try and get us another one,'' Bray said.
But he knew looking after his niggle was important too.
Pride goalkeeper Jace Hudson was brilliant under pressure, making full stretch saves at crucial times.
Pride's defence regrouped after the early lapes to keep Holland Park in check. The visitors too had some late chances to put the game away.
Former Ipswich Grammar student Bray said his goal was to establish his place in the Pride line-up.
"We want to see what we can do,'' he said. "We want to be up in the NPL (National Premier Leagues) and my position is to score goals and get us up.''
From Greenbank, he said being familiar with the IGS connection helped him settle into higher level competition.
Away from football, the player to watch works with his dad in a sprinkler fitting business.
Battling to stay in touch with the top four, Pride's next match is against Wynnum at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex next Saturday night.
"We're showing good patches. The big thing is just consistency,'' the goal scorer said.
FQPL: Western Pride 2 (Jackson Bray, Yuta Hirayama) drew Holland Park 2.