Crunch game for Fury

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMPSON michael. thompson@ news. com. au

THE North­ern Fury are on the verge of launch­ing a Cin­derella run to the Queens­land NPL fi­nals, but stand­ing in their way is the com­pe­ti­tion’s big­gest goalscor­ing threat.

The Fury take on a Western Pride team spear­headed by sea­son- lead­ing goal scorer and for­mer New­cas­tle Jets striker Har­ri­son Sawyer, who has scored an in­cred­i­ble 15 goals from seven matches since sign­ing with the Ip­swich club in May. Sawyer has bagged four THE Soc­ceroos may not know their 2018 World Cup fate un­til the morn­ing af­ter their must­win clash against Thai­land.

Ow­ing to time dif­fer­ences and ex­pected scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures in Western Asia, FIFA has de­ter­mined the fi­nal round of Asian Group B qual­i­fiers due to be played on Tues­day, Septem­ber 5 will not kick off si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

That could mean a ner­vous wait – or a sleep­less night – for fans hop­ing for cer­tainty from Aus­tralia’s match against Thai­land, which will be played at 8pm lo­cal time at Mel­bourne’s AAMI Park.

Even if the Soc­ceroos win, it may not be un­til the con­clu­sion of Saudi Ara­bia’s meet­ing with Ja­pan in Jeddah, which be­gins at 3.30am AEST the fol­low­ing morn­ing, that the road to Rus­sia be­comes clear.

Un­less Ange Postecoglou’s men can up­set Ja­pan in their penul­ti­mate qual­i­fier in Saitama on Au­gust 31, the Soc­ceroos may need a favourable re­sult from the Saudi- Ja­pan clash to con­firm a fourth con­sec­u­tive World Cup ap­pear­ance. Oth­er­wise, a play­off against the third- placed team in Group A – cur­rently Uzbek­istan – and then an­other two­legged clash with the fourth­placed CONCACAF qual­i­fier – cur­rently Panama – will be on the cards.

Ja­pan cur­rently Group A. sit atop hat- tricks and last week scored a dou­ble in the Pride’s 3- 0 win over Far North Queens­land, just the lat­est in a string of onesided vic­to­ries.

The Pride are on a fourgame win­ning streak af­ter knock­ing off Red­lands United 5- 0, Bris­bane City 4- 2, Moreton Bay 4- 0 and FNQ in Cairns.

Ex­pe­ri­enced heads Hamish Cas­sidy and Dar­ren Walker are ex­pected to play for the Fury in tonight’s catch- up game at Brolga Park, with Cas­sidy com­ing off the bench in last week­end’s in­spired 2- all away draw with league lead­ers Gold Coast, and Walker over­com­ing a neck strain.

Beat the sev­enth- placed Pride, who are one spot ahead of the Fury, and fi­nals foot­ball could be less than three wins away.

“The Pride have been play­ing re­ally strongly, but we just have to keep fo­cus­ing on our­selves be­cause we do a lot bet­ter when we do that,” Fury cap­tain Corey Waples said.

“We still have that be­lief any­thing can hap­pen, but we have to make our run as strong as pos­si­ble.

“We’re at home again and it’s good to play at home any­time, but it’s def­i­nitely some­thing we’re look­ing for­ward to af­ter what we went through on the Gold Coast.”

Waples said the team had made a point of play­ing for coach Paul Ron­cato, who last week suf­fered a stroke in the lead- up to the Fury’s Gold Coast game.

“We al­ways want to put in the ex­tra ef­fort for him be­cause he does so much for the team,” he said.

“It was hor­ri­ble to hear the news and it’s not good see­ing him in the trenches like that, so we dug deep for him.

“We just have to keep push­ing be­cause we have these two games in hand.”

The Fury have two ex­tra games over the rest of the league af­ter their last en­counter against the Pride was post­poned be­cause of bad weather, and an ear­lier game against the Bris­bane Roar was can­celled be­cause the Roar could field a com­pet­i­tive team.

Ron­cato knows his team is up against ar­guably the league’s most in- form team, but is back­ing his troops to build on last week­end’s draw.

“They’ve kicked ev­ery­one off the park in the last four weeks, and their striker is just rip­ping teams to shreds,” he said.

“But we have to be up to the chal­lenge, and we’ve shown from our last few games that we have been will­ing to do that.

“If we beat the Pride our fi­nals hopes are well and truly alive.”

Kick- off 7pm. not at Brolga Park is

PPi­ic­ct­tuur­ree:: ZZAK SSIIMMONDSS MORE JU­NIOR SPORT: page 59

OFF AND RUNNIING:: Lau­rra Ml­lade­n­ovi­icc,, 117,, hass been ssel­lec­ct­ted tto rreprressentt Ausst­tr­ral­liia att tthe Wor­rlld Dwar­rff Gamess iin Canada..

Corey Waples.

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