Preview: Gold Coast United v North Queensland Fury
Date: Saturday August 15, Kick-off: 5:30pm AEST Having won its first game in sensational fashion 3-1 against Brisbane, Gold Coast fronts up for its second Queensland derby in as many weeks and its first-ever home game against its fellow newborn North Queensland.
Date: Saturday August 15 Kick-off: 5:30pm AEST Venue: Skilled Park TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head First meeting
Season so far: Gold Coast: Round 1: Brisbane Roar 1, Gold Coast United 3, Suncorp Stadium
North Queensland: Round 1: North Queensland Fury 2, Sydney FC 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: Having won its first game in sensational fashion 3-1 against Brisbane, Gold Coast fronts up for its second Queensland derby in as many weeks and its first-ever home game against its fellow newborn North Queensland.
While there have been those who have said that it would be impossible for United to live up to the pre-season hype, the manner they went about their business in the season-opener against the Roar suggests that they have hit the ground running. Goals from Shane Smeltz, Jason Culina and Robson set them on their winning way while a performance of real strength from Bas Van Den Brink in the heart of defence saw the Roar unable to create good scoring chances.
The most pleasing aspect was the way in which the team played as a unit, moving the ball with speed from end to end, linked up beautifully in the midfield by their marquee man Culina. Miron Bleiberg says he played a 2-4-2-2 in that match, but in reality, it-s an attacking back four with two screening midfielders.
One of those screening midfielders, Adam Griffiths, has already departed the club after a lucrative offer from a Saudi club, but Bleiberg still has the depth in the middle of the park. He brings in Zenon Caravella, injured for the first game, and Steve Fitzsimmons, both chances to fill Griffiths' spot, while left-sided midfielder Adama Traore is also in.
Those to come back in over the next couple of weeks are James Brown (shin) and Jess Vanstratten (ankle). Scott Higgins did a reasonable job in Vanstratten's absence last week and has a few weeks to try and cement a spot in between the sticks. Gold Coast would have loved to have played its first-ever game at home and there will be a real determination to make Skilled Park's baptism one to remember.
The Fury's induction to the Hyundai A-League wasn't what they would have hoped for but it could have been even worse as the team struggled with cohesion early against Sydney and trailed 2-0 after 27 minutes.
But a well-converted set-piece, delivered by Jason Spagnuolo and finished by Rostyn Griffiths, gave them something to get their teeth into late in the first half and they were very good in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Spagnuolo was again key to the second goal, forcing Shannon Cole into conceding a silly penalty. Robbie Fowler scored on debut from the spot and the Fury were back level at 2-2.
Sydney would win it, with Fury goalkeeper Paul Henderson mis-judging a challenge and conceding a penalty, but there is no doubt that the final hour of the match showed Fury will be competitive. The best two players were those with previous Hyundai A-League experience in Spagnuolo and Robbie Middleby. There were two players in that starting XI who only signed with the club the day before in Dyron Daal and Kojiro Kaimoto.
Oddly, neither of those players has been named in the squad this week, with Qantas Socceroo Shane Stefanutto coming in for his first game and Osama Malik out for two weeks with a thigh strain. Ufuk Talay, who will be a very important player when he gets back to fitness, has a calf injury and is 2-3 weeks away, while Jeremy Brockie (quad), Jacob Timpano (hamstring) and Scott Wilson (foot) are longer-term prospects.
Coach Ian Ferguson will be demanding a strong performance from the defence this week, but it is up the other end where he will need to get the job done. Fowler will be up against Van den Brink or Robson and will have a tough night of it, while Daal's absence would indicate that either Daniel McBreen or David Williams will come in to the starting XI.
With Joel Porter and Shane Smeltz already forming a strong partnership and a close to capacity crowd urging them on, Gold Coast will be improved on last week's performance. It looms of not only a test of fledgling bragging rights but one of the character of the Fury in their first away game.
Gold Coast United Squad: 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE, 4.Daniel PIORKOWSKI, 5.ROBSON, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (capt), 11.MILSON, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 22.Adama TRAORE, 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 30.Jerrad TYSON (gk - yth). *two to be omitted
In: Zenon CARAVELLA (return from groin injury), Adama TRAORE (promoted), Steve FITZSIMMONS (promoted).
Out: Adam GRIFFITHS (not selected).
Unavailable: JEFFERSON (knee injury - 10 weeks), James BROWN (shin injury - 1 week), Jess VANSTRATTAN (ankle injury - 2 weeks)
North Queensland Fury squad: 1. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 8. Shane STEFANUTTO, 9. Robbie FOWLER (c), 11. David WILLIAMS, 12. Jack HINGERT, 13. Beau BUSCH, 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 15. Fred AGIUS, 16.Paul KOHLER, 18. James ROBINSON, 19. Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
In: 8. Shane STEFANUTTO (new signing)
Out: 17. Osama MALIK (thigh 1-2 weeks)
Unavailable: Jeremy BROCKIE - quadriceps (6-8 weeks), Jacob TIMPANO - hamstring (8weeks), Ufuk TALAY - calf (2-3 weeks), Scott WILSON - foot (6-8 weeks)