Goals galore in Ipswich football frenzy
MILESTONES, magic and masterly.
Add mighty moments and you sum up Western Pride's marvellous momentum in this year's National Premier Leagues state competition.
Pride's latest 8-1 victory over South West Queensland kept the Ipswich-based team in the hunt to play finals' football for the first time.
With a showdown against competition leaders Gold Coast next weekend, Pride have plenty of end-of-season encouragement, highlighted by one of the best dressing room celebrations heard in Ipswich for some time.
Joined by Centrals' grand final winning cricketers who have loyally followed Pride this year, the footballers delivered a victory chant befitting their powerhouse performance on the field.
The skilful Pride players had every reason to be happy, having enhanced their unbeaten run stretching back to June.
Saturday night's win at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex had added importance with a number of fantastic efforts.
Dashing striker Mitch Bird scored a hat-trick, a week after netting four goals against the Sunshine Coast in his 50th game for the club.
Rabbit-like Dylan Wenzel- Halls maintained his terrific record of scoring a goal in his past seven matches.
Captain Jesse Rigby headed home his first goal in the NPL state competition to put Pride 3-0 up.
Exciting Ipswich Grammar talent Dan Hall also found the net for the first time, coming on as a substitute.
Gaby Hawash registered his 50th game in Pride colours when he was brought on late in the game.
After becoming the team's most capped player last weekend, Joe Duckworth scored a well-deserved goal in his 63rd match for Pride.
Head coach Graham Harvey praised his whole squad for working hard to achieve the spate of success, riding a wave of milestones as they look to secure a top four spot.
"We're on a good bit of momentum and everybody is contributing now, which is great,'' Harvey said.
Pride's entire attacking formation was relentless, pounding Thunder's goal.
If it wasn't for the amazing defensive efforts of South West goalkeeper Luke McDonald, the score could have been anything on Saturday night.
Bird sealed his hat-trick in the final stages with Pride's eighth goal.
One of the best goals though was a superbly weighted free kick from defender Cam Crestani for Rigby to fly high in the penalty box and seal his special moment.
Harvey was especially happy for his skipper. Rigby has been with the club since 2015, being appointed top team captain by former coach Karl Dodd.
Harvey was also delighted how Bird has stepped up as leading goal scorer after Pride lost former A-Leaguer Harry Sawyer to a professional club in The Philippines.
"I think that's nine goals in three games for him now,'' Harvey said, also praising Wenzel-Halls for regularly finding the net.
"I think it's just the belief. Now they are seeing that they can actually beat anyone in the league.
"Harry made a good difference for us but he's been and gone now. The rest of the boys have all stood up as well.''
The Pride head coach also praised his team's defensive commitment and continued production line of talent.
Hall and Alex Parsons are among the under 18 and under 20 Pride players promoted to higher level football.
"I'm really happy on this run we've been on, we've been able to blood six youngsters now,'' Harvey said. "That stands us in good stead for the future now.
"Since the 16th of June, we have not lost a game in the senior program so I'm really happy.''
Having held onto fourth spot, Pride's top side hope to continue that against Gold Coast away on Saturday night.
State of play
NPL: Western Pride 8 (Mitch Bird 3, Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Jesse Rigby, Joe Duckworth, own goal via Delors Tuyishime, Dan Halls) def South West Queensland 1.
NPL U20: Western Pride 9 (Andrew Pengelly 3, Jordan Manning 2, Salomon Lukonga 2, Jack Sharples, own goal) def South West Qld 3.
NPL U18: Western Pride 1 (Jacob Advaney) drew South West Queensland 1.