Western Pride’s pleasure and pain as future looks bright
AS Western Pride's undefeated under-18 team celebrated a deserved premiership reward, the Ipswich club's youngest senior side displayed commitment beyond their years.
But when a more experienced football team comes over the top with a late surge, the pain can be brutal.
That's exactly how Pride head coach Andrew Catton and his players felt on a night of mixed emotions at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
After the delight of Pride's under-18 team winning its league and the club's under-20 outfit finishing second on goal difference, Catton shared the anguish of his brave young senior side.
"I'm proud of them but I'm gutted as well,'' Catton said after Wynnum came from 2-0 down to win the latest Queensland Premier League clash 4-2 on Saturday night.
"I probably haven't had one that hurts as much as that one does.''
While disappointed with the evening result, Catton knows the club has some exciting talent coming through.
Western Pride's under-18 side secured the premiership after player of the future Darryl Barton scored an equaliser with three minutes left.
The 1-1 draw with Mitchelton completed a terrific season for the team coached by former Brisbane Roar grand final winning mentor Mike Mulvey.
The Pride youngsters won eight games and drew three to add their latest title to the under-18 team's 2017 National Premier Leagues success.
Barton, affectionately nicknamed Buddha, fittingly came on in the last part of Saturday night's game, being one of the teenage talents earmarked for bigger and better football.
"The 18s went really well last year as 16 year olds in the NPL,'' Catton said.
"I think they are one of the only teams that are in the under-18 comp that actually doesn't have an under-18 player. They are all 17.
"They have gone and done so well, under a good coach and probably the best coach in the NPL and QPL in Mike Mulvey.
"Today they showed a little bit of character which was nice because they were down 1-0.
"It was good for Buddha to go back. He hasn't played with them for six weeks (being with the senior side).
"It was good for him to have a run with his mates because Buddha has been there since under 13.
"For him to go and score that goal, it will mean plenty to him.''
Under-18 teammates Patient Lukonga and Mibaraka Ruhiraka have also been training with the senior side this season.
Pride's under-20 team missed out on top spot on goal difference after beating Mitchelton 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.
"The 20s have plugged away and got touched up by Rochedale the other week and they still managed to come second,'' Catton said.
Catton's team completed the club's trifecta of rich youthful promise.
"Seventy-five minutes was very good,'' Catton said.
"We had 12 available senior players and of the starting 11, nine of them were (aged) under 20.
"I asked them to give us a performance that we can be proud of.
"They were so brave. They were so courageous. They worked for each other and unfortunately they (Wynnum) take four chances in the last 13-15 minutes.''
Pride looked the better side for much of the game, securing the halftime advantage through goals by Nathan Yoon and Jackson Bray.
However, after weathering the storm, the seasoned Wynnum players finally broke through to equalise with 20 to go.
One of those was a goal from an unbelievable strike that rocketed in after hitting the post.
Wynnum's last two goals came from goal mouth scrambles after they peppered Pride's defence with a series of tough to handle corners.
Captain Nielen Brown was among the casualties through the week after becoming the club's most capped player in the previous game. Brown played his 95th match against Holland Park, surpassing Joe Duckworth on 94 Pride appearances.
Other players in the leading group are Mitchell Bird (87), Jesse Rigby (83) and Gabriel Hawash (80).
Pride lost senior midfielder Killian Flavin during the warm-up on Saturday night after he was only a 50/50 chance pre-game.
"It hurts tonight because I said to them, especially when Killian got ruled out, to go and be brave, go and be serious and go and show everyone why I keep telling them how good you are, these young blokes,'' Catton said.
"We did it. They just didn't win.''
In a team rich in spirit, Pride midfielder Will Orford was among the best. He was unlucky not to be rewarded after some superb strikes that tested the Wynnum goalkeeper.
Stand-in captain Kelton Scriggins toiled hard, trying to help the young guns after Flavin had to withdraw.
But Pride's footballing future looks bright.
"I thought Ryan Stieler that came in was incredible - a 17-year-old kid, senior high school, first senior start. He was one of our best players,'' Catton said.
Western Pride returns home on Saturday night to tackle Southside Eagles in their quest to secure a top four spot.
The Pride under-18 champions will also play a 3pm match having been crowned 2020 premiership victors.
FQPL: Wynnum 4 def Western Pride 2 (Nathan Yoon, Jackson Bray).