MOVING FORWARD: Western Pride footballer Mitch Bird has scored seven goals against Sunshine Coast this season.
MOVING FORWARD: Western Pride footballer Mitch Bird has scored seven goals against Sunshine Coast this season. Chris Simpson

Footballer's double feat boosts positive team vibe

AFTER scoring four goals in his 50th game for Western Pride, Mitch Bird was a proud footballer.

He didn't expect to reach that National Premier Leagues milestone when he left Redlands to join Pride halfway through the 2015 season.

The dependable attacking player was pleased to have achieved his double feat in Pride's 5-1 win over Sunshine Coast, especially with the team performing so well at the right end of the season.

"It was a good way to celebrate it I guess,'' Bird said, only finding out on his way home that he reached the half century.

After his first four-goal haul in the NPL, he was just as happy with the positive vibe in the side following another victory on the road.

"It's really good,'' he said.

"We're working really hard and everyone is getting along so I reckon that's probably why we are doing so well.''

Since a near flawless 6-0 win over Brisbane Roar Youth on June 3, Pride have progressed into the top four for the first time in club history. That came on the back of some terrific efforts including wins over Redlands United 5-0, Brisbane City 4-2, Moreton Bay United 4-0, Far North Queensland 3-0, Northern Fury 5-1 and last weekend's success over Sunshine Coast.

Winning so well in away games has been a feature of Pride's improvement this season.

Preparing for Saturday night's match against South West Queensland at home, Bird was happy to be finishing off some fine team combinations.

"The first goal was one of my better ones out of the four but I think getting that second goal was probably better because we were down 1-0,'' he said.

Bird said a turning point for the club's top team was gaining the services of former Newcastle A-League striker Harry Sawyer mid-season.

Sawyer netted 15 goals in seven games, including four hat-tricks in a row before signing with Philippines professional club Davao Aguilas.

"He (Saywer) gave us that kind of boost that we needed,'' Bird said. "It's been good for the club as well.

"Hopefully we can continue doing what we are doing.''

Sawyer's contribution has rubbed off on other players like Bird and Dylan Wenzel-Halls, who have carried on the goal-scoring deeds in his absence.

Both players made this week's NPL Queensland "team of the week''.

"He's been really good coming into the side,'' Bird said of his speedy teammate Wenzel-Halls.

Bird, 22, said scoring four against Sunshine Coast was his biggest haul in the NPL. He also netted a hat-trick against the same side in Pride's 9-0 win at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex in April.

Bird has scored 10 goals from 17 matches this season, after netting six from 21 games last year with Pride's top side.

The former Lions player said the team's recent progress has the prospect of playing finals football at the back of the minds.

"I can't remember the last time I played finals, probably like under 17s or something,'' he said.

Saturday's 7pm match against South West Queensland has added importance for Bird and his teammates.

The team sitting in 10th place on the NPL ladder ambushed Pride in the first round, winning 2-1 in Toowoomba.

"Being home is probably good for us against Toowoomba,'' he said. "Last time we played them away, we struggled.''

But since that surprise result, Pride has found its mojo, matching the competition's heavyweight sides at home and on foreign soil.

Pride's under-18 team is top of the table in their competition, preparing for Saturday's 2.45pm match at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.

Pride are on 41 points, ahead of Gold Coast City (37) in the junior division.

Game day

NPL: Saturday (7pm) - Western Pride v South West Queensland at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.

Latest points: 1. Gold Coast City 45, 2. Brisbane Strikers 42, 3. Brisbane Olympic 39,

4. Western Pride 32, 5. Moreton Bay United 32, 6. Brisbane City 31, 7. FNQ 28, 8. Northern Fury 20, 9. Redlands United 18, 10. South West Queensland 17, 11. Brisbane Roar Youth 16, 12. Sunshine Coast 2.

Earlier Pride v SW Qld games on Saturday at Briggs Road: U18 (2.45pm), U20 (4.45pm).

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