Western Pride defender Will McFarlane duels with a Brisbane Roar Youth opponent during his team's latest 6-1 victory at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Western Pride defender Will McFarlane duels with a Brisbane Roar Youth opponent during his team's latest 6-1 victory at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex. Chris Simpson

Why Ipswich's best football side is on top

EVERYONE involved with Ipswich's best performing football team know what it's like to climb the proverbial mountain and savour success.

As defending state league grand final champions, Western Pride's senior players and coaching staff restored the region's higher level reputation after some lean years.

However, backing up from such a historic achievement is often even more challenging than winning a major title.

Just ask the Ipswich Jets.

After their deserved Intrust Super Cup grand final victory in 2015, the Jets have struggled to replicate that monumental effort despite patches of brilliance.

So being on top of the National Premier Leagues competition after 10 games this year augurs well for a professional group of Western Pride players, backed by progressive coaching and medical staff.

While the 2018 NPL state competition has a long way to go, Pride head coach Graham Harvey was delighted with how the team has handled the pressure following last year's 2-1 grand final victory over Moreton Bay United.

"All the credit goes to the players really for being so professional and also consistent,'' Harvey said.

"Making sure that each week, no matter who we play, they prepare themselves correctly and give themselves the best opportunity to perform well.''

As for the pleasing progress so far, Harvey backed his team all the way.

"I'm not surprised because they are a very talented group of players,'' Harvey said.

"I've seen how hard they work and train and seen how they analyse their own performance and have that desire to improve, which is something that's been quite big for us as a coaching group.''

 

Western Pride coach Graham Harvey and captain Jesse Rigby with last year's grand final trophy.
Western Pride coach Graham Harvey and captain Jesse Rigby with last year's grand final trophy. Chris Simpson

Preparing for Friday night's NPL game against Redlands United at Cleveland, Pride are on 27 points. Pride leapt over former competition leaders Olympic (now on 26 points) after beating Brisbane Roar Youth 6-1 last Saturday night.

Lions are in third (24 points) with Strikers (22) and Moreton Bay (20) still major threats.

But with a game in hand over Olympic, Pride can control their own destiny in coming weeks as they look to maintain the momentum.

"We just have to make sure the boys take each game as it comes, not get too far ahead of themselves,'' Harvey said.

"The results will take care of themselves. It's more about the processes in place.''

Harvey's youthful team has responded to all its challenges this season.

Pride's only loss was to Olympic 3-2 on February 10.

Since then, Pride notched their biggest win 15-1 over Sunshine Coast.

More importantly, Pride have held out quality opponents like Lions (1-0), Gold Coast United (3-1) and Moreton Bay United (5-0).

Pride have scored 51 goals already, only conceding 10.

That is the best attacking record in the state league, by eight goals over Olympic, and the second best defensive effort behind Lions (six goals).

Among consistent performers in a closeknit team are last year's Player of the Year Adam Endean, defender Gabby Hawash and striker Andy Pengelly.

Endean continues his impressive work in the midfield.

Hawash has stepped up in a different role this year.

Pengelly has made a seamless transition from Pride's under 20 team to senior football, regularly scoring and setting up goals.

"The whole team is doing well,'' Harvey said. "We've got really good consistency across what we're doing.

"These boys are all such a similar age, they probably share the same ambitions as each other. These boys have got that same passion.

"I enjoy working with them.''

Club stability is another reason Pride have carried on their tremendous form.

With an active committee supporting development and setting new standards, Pride's top team is able to get on with the task of winning matches.

However, the head coach said his main priority remains helping his players further their careers.

"Where we sit in the league is just a by-product of what we're trying to do - push the boys into professional football,'' Harvey said.

"If they keep winning games and keep performing and beating sides convincingly, then they're giving themselves that best opportunity to progress into professional football.''

Ever cautious

ALTHOUGH his team is progressing well, Harvey is cautious about tonight's match at Cleveland.

"Friday night down there is always a little bit tricky with people working and travelling, etc,'' he said.

"Redlands have been inconsistent this year so they are dangerous to us.

"They are one of those sides that on their day can cause problems.

"It's just a case of the boys now having that pride in their own performance, their own standards, to drive their performance forward.''

Game day

Friday (7pm) - Western Pride v Redlands United at Cleveland.

NPL top five - played, points (GD)

1. Western Pride - 10, 27 (41)

2. Olympic - 11, 26 (22)

3. Lions - 10, 24 (24)

4. Strikers - 10, 22 (17)

5. Moreton Bay - 11, 20 (6)



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