Western Pride striker Alex Parsons scored two goals in a timely return to form in Saturday night's nerve-racking 3-2 NPL victory.
Western Pride striker Alex Parsons scored two goals in a timely return to form in Saturday night's nerve-racking 3-2 NPL victory. Chris Simpson

Striker's most crucial goal double in football thriller

IF he had scored a more crucial goal previously, emotion-charged Alex Parsons just bettered it.

In a high-intensity, nerve-racking match Western Pride had to win to revive their flagging season, Parsons scored twice in the last 10 minutes of regular time.

His successful strikes lifted Pride from 1-1 and 2-1 down to a stunning 3-2 victory over major rivals South West Queensland.

With both teams battling to avoid National Premier Leagues relegation, Parsons' return to form sparked incredible scenes at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Saturday night.

The former Ipswich Grammar School student led the way with his trademark salute and elated dash to the dugout.

After conceding he had been below his best in recent weeks, a sore but satisfied Parsons shared what the win meant to his team knowing that losing the game was virtually a six-point defeat.

"In the situation we were in, I was more relieved I think because it was an important goal,'' Parsons said.

It was just Pride's fourth win of the season, lifting them away from the cellar for now.

In his third season with Pride, Parsons was one of last year's top team regulars to remain loyal to the club following a massive off-season exodus.

This year's captains Cam Crestani and Jacob Minett shared a symbolic hug after the match, having also stayed after being part of Pride's 2017 NPL grand final winning side along with goalkeeper Max Davison.

"All of us are just here to keep the club up,'' Parsons, 18, said.

"You see all the juniors come out to the games and you have to play for them and play for people running the club.

"And I think having that core group . . . after a lot of turnover . . . I think that's still good because we know how much it means to the club and how much the community has done for the club.''

Parsons started the season well before suffering an ankle injury that ruled him out for more than a month.

"I've been probably back for about six weeks and to be honest the last six weeks I've been playing poor and I've been putting more pressure on myself to perform,'' he said.

"The injury kind of slowed me down and the last few weeks is probably when I felt back to 100 percent. That's probably the best game I've had back.''

Without recent additions Killian Flavin and Anthony Sarramea on Saturday night, Pride relied on Parsons, Michael Morrow, Mustafa Jafari and newcomer Zelfry Nazary to ignite the attack.

They provided plenty of first half opportunities before South West Queensland broke the deadlock from a free kick 10 minutes before halftime.

On a chilly night in Ipswich, the visitors capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to take the lead.

After a halftime rev by head coach Terry Kirkham, Pride looked disjointed early in the second half before their remarkable recovery.

Tireless left back Kelton Scriggins fired a shot that hit the crossbar before Jafari showed plenty of poise in the goalmouth to stop, balance, pivot and score.

That came after Davison kept his team in the match with some superb saves, diving and blocking point blank blasts.

 

Western Pride goalkeeper Max Davison
Western Pride goalkeeper Max Davison had an outstanding game. Chris Simpson

But as the desperation levels rose, South West Queensland scored again, from a counter attack following a diffused Pride free kick at the other end of the field.

With time running out, Parsons was on the spot to score in the 80th minute from another goalmouth scramble following a corner kick.

His match-winning goal came in the 87th minute. Parsons pounced on a through-ball before calmly slotting it past the South West keeper.

"The first half probably wasn't a fair reflection of how far we've come in the last few weeks,'' Parsons said.

"It felt like it was one of those games where we might not have got in the end but it was good.''

Parsons said the team had some positive signs as it looks ahead to winnable games against Redlands (Friday night) and Sunshine Coast.

"I think this is giving us heaps of confidence going forward,'' he said. "Hopefully a few more wins and progress apart from the bottom three.''

In the earlier under-18 match on Saturday, Western Pride lost 1-0 to South West Queensland despite some concerted attack that could easily have resulted in a different outcome.

The Western Pride women lost 5-1 to Easts at Heath Park on Saturday.

State of play

NPL: Western Pride 3 (Alex Parsons 2, Mustafa Jafari) def South West Queensland 2.

NPL women: Easts 5 def Western Pride 1.