One game at a time
THE North Coast Suns are just one game away from their first appearance in a Summer Soccer Youth League final after ruthlessly disposing of the Toowoomba Raiders 4-0 at Cleveland Showgrounds on Saturday.
The gulf between the top-of-the-ladder Suns and last-placed Raiders was obvious after just three minutes, when Tom Guttormsen scored the Suns' opening goal.
Further goals from Joel Gosper, James Hirst and Tom Ruhl quickly followed, as the Suns overwhelmed the Raiders, racing to a 4-0 lead after just 30 minutes.
This gave coach Jonathan Harlen the luxury of resting key players such as Guttormsen, who came off after just 20 minutes, and giving his younger brigade a go, such as defenders Lewis Evans, Robert Cooper and Sam Ferronato.
They went on to maintain the Suns' first clean sheet of the summer and gain valuable game time, but the real highlight for the Suns was the performance of striker James Hirst.
After struggling to come back from injury Hirst is returning to top form and showed a deft touch on the ball, an ability to beat his marker and some creative play, all capped by a cracking goal in a man of the match performance.
The confidence-boosting win will see spirits high in the Suns camp going into next week's crucial last-round showdown with the Queensland Academy of Sport.
The QAS have some gifted players and could also be playing for a place in the final, depending on results in mid-week catch-up games.
In a boost for the Suns, Weston Park, Goonellabah will provide the home venue for their first game on home soil since the opening round, with a big crowd expected to turn out for the 7pm start.
The match will be part of a double-header, with Palm Beach Sharks meeting Toowoomba Raiders in the curtain raiser from 5pm.
n THE North Coast Flames have broken through for their first win in the Women's Summer Soccer League, with a stylish 3-0 victory over Eastern Suburbs at Brisbane Lions Field on Saturday.
The Flames led 1-0 by half-time thanks to an own goal, but the margin should have been much greater after relentless pressure on the Easts defence.
The trend continued after the break, with a penalty from Sophie Towner doubling the Flames' lead, before Renee Cowan put a far-post finish to a flowing, length-of-the-field move for the third goal.
"It was an absolute mauling, the girls have finally hit their straps," ecstatic coach Brendan Logan said.
"The girls attacked in numbers and defended in numbers, their support play was outstanding and our wide players Teonie Rushton and Renee Cowan were heavily involved and had great games.
"But our best was Sophie Towner in midfield. She controlled much of the game and Jenna Gollan up front was also instrumental with her ability to provide an option and distribute."
The Flames will now focus on their final-round match against the powerful Gold Coast side next Saturday, where a win could see them reach the third place play-off on December 10.