SUNSHINE Coast Fire have completed a second straight Queensland State League double with a 1-0 win over Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park on Saturday night.
The Strikers were hosting the Grand Final for the fourth successive season but once again fell to a resilient Fire side despite dominating large portions of the match.
Rain had smothered Brisbane in the hours prior to kick-off and both sets of players struggled to find their touch and passing range in the opening stages.
A battle in midfield consumed the early exchanges before the Strikers began to gain control, forcing the Fire defence into a scrambled clearance inside the penalty area within ten minutes.
The first true chance of the match, however, came the Fire’s way as midfielder Leon Dwyer caught Strikers goalkeeper Brendan White unaware with a long-range strike against the crossbar.
That forced the Strikers into action as a scuffed shot from the edge of the area was followed by Michael Angus forcing Fire goalkeeper Antony Hall into a fine save from an out-swinging drive.
The game had sprung into life by this point and neat interplay between the Strikers attackers should have given them the lead but a shot from inside the area was flashed just wide.
A move from Sunshine Coast could also have seen them in front before the break but Dwyer wasted a good opportunity in similar fashion, putting his shot past the far post.
The Fire went close once again on the strike of halftime as they saw a header cleared off the line at the back post.
That proved to be the final chance in a half which was edged by the Strikers.
The opening few minutes of the second-half saw the first caution of the match handed out to Strikers midfielder Ryan Mottin for a cynical challenge on Fire fullback James Stinson.
A couple of Fire free-kicks around the penalty area came to nothing before Strikers veteran Chay Hews unleashed the first shot of the half, but could only succeed in troubling the ball-boy.
A clever one-two down the Strikers right wing then led to a set corner routine from which Matt Thurtell, back in the squad after returning from his trial with Wellington Phoenix, blasted over.
Brisbane were knocking on the door by this point as Myles Carseldine and Sean Burke were wreaking havoc down the right wing and it took a brave block from Fire’s Ryan Smith inside the area to deny Hews.
Only minutes after being worked into a save from a strike driven across goal, Fire goalkeeper Antony Hall produced the outstanding save of the match with a strong hand required to palm over Nick Robinson’s thunderous free-kick.
It seemed like only a matter of time until the Strikers registered on the scoreboard but they were reminded of the Fire threat when, first, a ball headed into the path of captain Tyson Holmes required Carseldine to make a covering challenge before Shaun Blackman scooped a shot over the crossbar soon after.
And it was Sunshine Coast who made the Strikers pay for their wastefulness by grabbing a surprise lead as the game ticked into the final quarter of an hour.
A sweeping cross-field pass found Stinson in behind the Strikers defence to the right of the penalty area, whose layoff back to Gareth Musson allowed the former Strikers player to slot a classy left-footed finish into the far corner past White.
The Strikers had dominated possession in the moments prior to the 77th minute strike and responded with two substitutions, including the introduction of former A-League player Jonti Richter.
But the Fire were largely untroubled in the closing minutes of the match as they wound down the clock and held on for their third QSL Grand Final triumph, each coming over the Brisbane Strikers.
Brisbane Strikers 0
Sunshine Coast Fire 1 (Musson 77’)