Athletic Alex plays vital role with finals looming
FOOTBALL: As the latest Ipswich-bred footballer to start regularly in Western Pride's finals-bound men's side, Alex Parsons could be forgiven for being tentative.
However, that is far from the case.
The former Ipswich Grammar School student and ex-Western Spirit striker/winger has made a smooth transition from under 18 and under 20 National Premier Leagues competitions to the high intensity senior state series.
Although he didn't score in Pride's latest 2-0 victory on Saturday night, Parsons was heavily involved in his higher level opportunity.
The 18-year-old was dangerous every time he got the ball and showed glimpses of his defensive talents as Pride mounted raid after raid on the Cairns goal mouth at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Being able to contribute more on Saturday night and over the past month was especially pleasing given he had struggled with injury early in the year.
"I've been back for about three months now. I'm feeling good so that's all that matters,'' Parsons said.
"It's obviously a bit faster (in senior football) but it's good.
"There's a good culture around so I fit in pretty nicely.''
Saturday night's victory kept Western Pride in second spot with three matches left.
Importantly, the win secured the defending state league grand final champions a top four position for the finals.
With Western Pride's under 20 and under 18 teams also in the top three, the Ipswich club is well positioned for another finals charge.
Head coach Reg Davani was thrilled to see Parsons thriving on his opportunity.
That came as Pride under 18 player Wilfred Phillip made his senior team debut on Saturday night.
Under-20 footballer Mitch Herrmann also came on for his second game in the top side.
"We are a club that continues the philosophy of promoting youth talent into senior football and providing them the right opportunity to play football at the highest level in the state,'' Davani said.
Parsons only joined Pride last year, playing in the under 18 and under 20 sides before advancing to the senior team.
He started with Spirit before stints with Lions, Olympic, QAS and the Brisbane Roar youth program.
"For a few years there, Ipswich didn't have a team in the Queensland comp and now we do and we're successful,'' the exciting regional prospect said.
He is enjoying his state league starting role alongside former IGS sharpshooters Joe Duckworth and Andy Pengelly, and with Saturday night's first goal scorer Mitch Bird.
"They are all class players. It does suit me to be honest,'' Parsons said. "We all push ourselves so it's good.''
After Pengelly sat out the game resting a hip injury, Parsons said he appreciated having such familiar players around him.
"Me and Andy go to the gym together so that's been good,'' Parsons said.
Against sixth-placed Cairns, Pride were held scoreless in the first half despite an avalanche of shots and corners, all repelled by the visitors.
"In training, we're working hard on our finishing but tonight it didn't come off. Maybe next week it will,'' Parsons said of Pride's attacking onslaught.
But as the temperature dropped around the Briggs Road Sporting Complex after halftime, Pride upped the tempo as they often do.
Bird finally blew the game open by capitalizing on a goal mouth scramble to score.
He deserved his 30th goal from 71 games.
So too did Pride's workaholic second goal-getter Joe Duckworth.
Duckworth sealed the win with his 14th goal of the season and his 39th in 90 NPL games for Pride.
Duckworth is just one goal behind Dylan Wenzel-Halls' all-time record for the Ipswich club.
"We held our nerve,'' Parsons said, reflecting on the frustrating first half.
"We got the three points so that's all that matters in the end.''
THE Western Pride women were also rewarded with a 3-1 NPL victory over Mitchelton in the earlier match.
Kate Muscat seized on a rebound in the fifth minute to put Pride up 1-0 before Mitchelton equalized in the second half.
Pride captain Sophie Weatherby slammed home her team's second goal before speedster Zoe Lambi displayed her tremendous skills.
Lambi sliced through the Mitchelton defence to complete Pride's much-improved sixth win of the season, the team's best tally since joining the state league competition.
Muscat and Weatherby have netted 14 goals this season. Lambi has 11.
Pride goalkeeper Holly Van Der Zee had a superb match on Saturday, reversing Pride's 6-2 loss to Mitchelton earlier in the season.
NPL: Western Pride 2 (Mitch Bird, Joe Duckworth) def Cairns 0 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
NPL women: Western Pride 3 (Kate Muscat, Sophie Weatherby, Zoe Lambi) def Mitchelton 1 (Darcie Wilson) at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.