Why Western Pride has the 'Power' to escape relegation
IT'S taken this long but "all of a sudden'' Western Pride feel confident of matching the competition leaders.
It's a huge ask expecting the relegation-threatened Pride to stop the run of Peninsula Power who sit four points clear at the top of the table with 18 wins and just four losses.
However, National Premier Leagues football produces plenty of surprises.
Having ironically helped current high-fliers Peninsula twice get out of trouble since 2007, championship-winning Pride head coach Terry Kirkham is talking confidently.
"It's a big game for us as we continue to improve and they (Power) need to win to stay on top so it's a big day for many reasons,'' Kirkham said.
He coached Peninsula to a then Brisbane Premier League championship in 2009, having guided them out of cellar-dweller strife in 2007 against the Ipswich Knights.
When returning to the club in 2015, Kirkham again helped them reach the grand final after Power were near the bottom of the league.
Those efforts had Kirkham inducted as a 20 year anniversary coach recently. He will be a guest on Saturday when Power's new corporate indoor training centre is opened before the game.
While that recognition was appreciated, Kirkham's focus is purely on helping his improving Pride side rise from the brink like Power did.
"All year, we knew that this season was going to come down to our last six weeks,'' said Kirkham, who took over the head coaching role late due to unexpected pre-season circumstances.
"When you have a look at how we've rebuilt the team, it's taken a long time.''
Pride has eight games to build on their current 15 points and move clear of the bottom three zone. Those teams at season's end will be relegated to next year's Queensland Premier League competition.
Preparing for Saturday's match at AJ Kelly Park, the Pride coach welcomes back experienced footballer Killian Flavin, who has been in Ireland for a wedding.
Flavin's return is timely with another Pride midfielder Doug McIndoe heading to Melbourne for his law studies.
That switch ensures Pride will field an experienced core with Flavin joining captain Cam Crestani and attacking midfield/striker Zelfy Nazary.
Afghanistan international Nazary is keen to build on last weekend's hat-trick against Sunshine Coast.
After watching his front four play as individuals in the previous week's 4-0 loss to Redlands United, Kirkham was buoyed by the efforts of Nazary, Alex Parsons, Michael Morrow and Mustafa Jafari against Sunshine Coast.
"It was quite frustrating because it was probably the best we've played all year,'' he said of the finishing-off performance against Redlands despite plenty of opportunities and impressing in the first half.
"Whereas on Saturday night (against Sunshine Coast), we sorted it out during the week - the importance of when we get to that front third, the top four have got to play together.''
The result of that was six goals from four different players.
Another major recruit Anthony Sarramea returns next week.
"All of a sudden, now you're going to have some players on the bench that have experience,'' Kirkham said.
"When you plot the path, if you look at the whole middle of our team, it's taken probably 10 weeks to find those players and now you've got to hope they gel and connect and finish out a season. And we have to take points off some good teams.''
Kirkham has gained added hope having watched his team push other form teams Lions and Olympic this season.
"With the team that we've got now, there's no excuses,'' he said.
"We've got boys up front who can score.''
Former Pride regular Mitch Bird is lining up for Power in Saturday's game, creating additional interest in what is already an intriguing encounter.
Relegation-threatened Pride can greatly enhance their National Premier Leagues survival by upsetting competition leaders Peninsula Power on Saturday night.
With no catch-up games, Power will be eager to repel Pride at their home base to keep the chasing pack at bay.
However, Pride have nothing to lose as they look to improve on their 13th place position, three points away from leaping ahead of the Magpies Crusaders, depending on other results.
Saturday's 5pm match is being livestreamed on the Football Queensland website for Pride fans who can't make the trip to AJ Kelly Park.