Western Pride player Mitch Bird is on the comeback trail from injury.
Western Pride player Mitch Bird is on the comeback trail from injury. Chris Simpson

Football team keen to rebuild home fortress

FOOTBALL: A break in playing momentum has the Western Pride players wary of Sunshine Coast in Saturday night's National Premier Leagues match in Ipswich.

On the same weekend Pride's road trip to Mackay was postponed, Sunshine Coast had a 90 minute hitout, losing 2-0 against the Brisbane Roar Youth team.

"It was a little bit of a hindrance,'' Pride head coach Graham Harvey said of having his team's second road trip rescheduled to July 21.

"At the start of the season, we probably just wanted to keep getting through the games and get the match fitness up and the sharpness up.

"It's a bit unwelcome but we just have to deal with it.''

While Pride were keen to chase their third victory from four games, the team has plenty of incentive to play attractive attacking football on Saturday night.

Their home base at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex was a fortress in the second half of last season.

Harvey knows his players enjoy winning in front of their vocal home fans.

After earlier being disappointed with Pride's first home ground 3-2 loss to Olympic, Harvey has since accepted it was a productive match for the defending state league grand final champions.

"We didn't play particularly well against Olympic but seeing what they've done this year, they are probably the frontrunners,'' Harvey said.

"It (Pride's loss) is probably not as bad as initially we thought after the game.

"Olympic are a strong side this year. We just need to go away and be a little bit more composed than what we did.''

Pride rebounded strongly from that loss to beat North Queensland United 6-0, to add to the team's opening round 2-1 win over the Strikers.

"When we went to Townsville, I thought we did a good job with that,'' Harvey said.

"We were very clinical to start with so I'm hoping that we can make another fast start this weekend.''

However, Harvey is treating Sunshine Coast with respect despite Saturday night's opponents having just one win from four games this season.

"I think they have improved from last year,'' the Pride head coach said.

"They have brought in quite a few new faces in and they are going through the stage there where they are trying to build into their season.

"It's not going to be an easy game to be fair, especially with that week off for us. They played last weekend so they'll have that extra 90 minutes under their belt.''

As for his squad, Harvey was happy to maintain regular training around last weekend's match washout and recent wet weather challenges.

"Everybody's fine,'' he said, expecting to field a similar line-up to the one that beat North Queensland United a fortnight ago.

However, as always, Harvey is looking to bring under 20 players into the senior program at every opportunity.

He's monitoring the fitness of under 20 striker Alex Parsons (pre-season quad injury), who Harvey hopes will be available for more higher level football in the future.

Former Ipswich Grammar School student Parsons had previously played for Western Spirit, Lions, Olympic and Roar's youth team.

Midfielder Josh Wilson is another youth player on Harvey's radar for more game time.

That comes as one of Pride's most experienced campaigners Mitch Bird is back joining the training sessions as he manages osteo pubis.

"He's still a couple of weeks away but getting closer, which is nice,'' Harvey said.

"I'm really happy with how he is progressing and the medical staff are doing a really good job with him.''

Harvey is pleased how Pride's Reg Davani-coached under 20 side is going this season with two wins from three games.

However, he wants the under 18 side to keep focused on their 2018 challenge.

"The under 18 boys still have a lot of work to do to understand the senior environment in NPL,'' he said.

With plenty of quality players vying for top team spots, Harvey reminded his team 2018 was a new season after the top team and under 18 side's premiership successes last year.

"We had that good review in Japan and made sure we left the 2017 season where it was and look to the future,'' Harvey said.

"The boys know it's competitive and they've got to perform in training and games every week.

"But there is a good vibe.

"They are all mates off the field, which really does help being similar ages and lots of similar interests.''

NPL men: Saturday (7pm) - Western Pride v Sunshine Coast at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.

NPL women: Saturday (5pm) - Western Pride v Sunshine Coast at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.