Honest footballer: 'I didn't think it was a red card'
AFTER a showdown as gripping as it gets, Western Pride goal scorer Joe Duckworth acknowledged his opponents were unlucky.
While delighted to share in his team's telling 1-0 state league victory, Duckworth said the Strikers were unfortunate to have Michael Mcgowan sent off 26 minutes in to the classic encounter at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
With both teams displaying their quality in a skilful end-to-end joust, Mcgowan was sent off for a last-man challenge on Duckworth as the Pride striker appeared destined to score.
"I didn't think it was a red card,'' former Ipswich Grammar School student Duckworth said. "I'm honest enough to admit that.
"It was still one-on-one but I think there was enough cover there for it not to be a last-man challenge and I wasn't directly facing goal.
"The referee makes those decisions and sometimes they go for you, sometimes they go against you. Last week, we had one that went against us. This week we had one that went for us.
"It's a shame because you like to play against teams with 11 players but that's football.''
Although Pride didn't score from the resulting free kick, it left the defending state league premiers a man down at a crucial stage.
The Strikers showed remarkable tenacity to continue their relentless attacking style in what was one of the games of the season in this year's National Premier Leagues Queensland competition.
The Strikers were only denied by desperate Pride defence and some exceptional close range saves by goalkeeper Max Davison.
"If you look at their roster, they have got some of the best players in the league,'' Duckworth said. "It was really a big win for us.''
Duckworth finally broke the enthralling game open in the 39th minute when he delivered one of his trademark super strikes after tremendous lead-up work by Fraser Hills.
That was the only goal in a superb contest between two NPL Queensland heavyweight sides.
Unlike previous matches where Pride overpowered their opponents in a goal-scoring blitz, Saturday night's game had everyone on the edge of their seats.
As fireworks exploded over the nearby skies at the Ipswich Showgrounds, the closeknit Pride players had to band together to resist a powerful footballing threat.
After praising Strikers' commitment, Duckworth was also proud of his team following the previous week's 3-1 loss to Brisbane City. That was only Pride's second defeat of the year, generating more talk about Pride's place in the NPL.
"We hear all the noise about we're always the pretenders and people don't pay us respect and whatever but we only had a point to prove to ourselves,'' Duckworth said.
"We are only interested in what we are doing and we obviously wobbled (losing to Brisbane City) but that had nothing to do with who was playing and who wasn't playing. That was just down to us not playing to our standards and we worked really hard at training this week.
"Tonight we really showed a bit of ticker and we ground out a well-fought win.''
The team's most capped player was delighted to see rising talent Josh Wilson receive a starting opportunity in such a big game.
He was also pleased for injury-troubled midfielder Jacob Minett. "Bulla is one of my closest friends and we all just feel so bad for him when he went down last time,'' Duckworth said.
"He worked so hard to get back so seeing him back is really good. Remember last year on that run home to the finals, he was a massive part of that team.
"And Josh, he's a really good young talent continuing the process with Pride, developing young players. He played really well tonight.''
With Pride having completed a winning double over the reputable Strikers, Duckworth said the next few weeks were just as important.
Second-placed Pride (33 points) meet competition leaders Olympic (35) on Sunday before a looming duel with fifth-placed Lions (27).
With a game in hand, Pride have built a handy buffer over third-placed Moreton Bay (29), Strikers (28) and the unpredictable Brisbane City (22).
"It's a very tight league and it's a good three points but no need to get carried away,'' Duckworth said.
"There's still a lot of football and another really good game against Olympic.
"When you've got the budget they have, you can buy whoever you want. They have got a lot of good players.
"That's what we want. We want the hard games because that's how you get better.''
NPL: Western Pride 1 (Joe Duckworth) def Brisbane Strikers 0 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.