Western Pride goal scorer Andrew Pengelly duels with a North Queensland United opponent during Saturday night's 6-1 NPL win.
Western Pride goal scorer Andrew Pengelly duels with a North Queensland United opponent during Saturday night's 6-1 NPL win. Sharon Woodward

Goal feast gives football champions a lift

A TERRIFIC start, excellent team goals and a smooth road trip to steady the defending grand final champions three games into the 2018 National Premier Leagues season.

Western Pride head coach Graham Harvey had plenty to be pleased about after his team's latest 6-1 victory over North Queensland United in Townsville.

After a 3-2 loss to Olympic following a 2-1 win over Brisbane Strikers, Pride headed north without too many issues to resolve.

However, Harvey was delighted to see his team creating so many chances and rediscovering better linkage between the players moving forward.

"We're still not at our best yet but we had a very good start into the game being two-up after four minutes'' Harvey said.

"That just gave the boys a good shot in the arm, good confidence.''

One of Harvey's only disappointments was not scoring more goals.

Energetic striker Dylan Wenzel-Halls completed his hat-trick in the 58th minute but hit the woodwork three times in the hot and humid conditions.

Harvey was encouraged with the early form of reliable Wenzel-Halls, who has already scored six goals this season. He carried on his tremendous from last year, including scoring the winning goal in Pride's 2-1 grand final win over Moreton Bay United.

Former under 20 Golden Boot winner Andrew Pen- gelly is settling well into the senior Pride side, high- lighted by his double in Townsville. That lifted his season tally to three.

"Those two (Wenzel-Halls and Pengelly) are starting to strike up a good little partnership,'' Harvey said.

Hard-working team man Joe Duckworth found the net for the first time with his 35th minute strike.

Duckworth is regaining his form and fitness after a disrupted pre-season being overseas celebrating his 21st birthday.

The former Ipswich Grammar School student is an important cog in Pride's attacking armoury.

"They were very good team goals,'' Harvey said, after collecting his luggage at Brisbane airport.

"We're definitely progressing each week, which is nice, but I still think we have a lot more to offer.''

After a "really smooth'' road trip north, the head coach was also pleased with how his team coped with the demands of travel preparing to play in the hot and humid Townsville conditions.

Training in Ipswich through last week's heatwave helped prepare the Pride players for the testing weather.

Fresh from a stint with Hawke's Bay United in New Zealand, Hayden Mchenery played 55 minutes to kickstart his welcome return to Pride.

State of play

NPL: Western Pride 6 (Dylan Wenzel-Halls 3, Andrew Pengelly 2, Joe Duckworth) def North Queensland United 1 in Townsville.

Next match: Saturday (7pm) - Western Pride v Magpies Crusaders in Mackay.



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