FOOTBALL: Young Gladiators continue unbeaten league run
FOOTBALL: The Gympie United under-18 squad braved last-minute omissions to continue their undefeated start to the Sunshine Coast Football season against Noosa at their home deck on Saturday.
Injury and sickness to key players meant the match started slowly for the Gladiators, but it was the addition of playmaker Jacob Robson that gave the side its lead with a clinical finish before half-time.
Coach Jason Lord said Robson had displayed a "cool head under pressure” to slot the crucial goal.
"Jacob started on the bench for us; we're very solid right across the field and we have no weak links at the moment, and he was able to inject some composure for us when he came on to the field,” Lord said.
"He stuck to our game plan really well; he kept his possession, shape and patience on the ball.
"He was able to keep a cool head under pressure and turned a half chance into a goal, which can be the difference in close matches.
"He turned his defender and his finish was clinical, he didn't hit it with too much power, he placed it very nicely.”
Lord said missed opportunities in front of goal combined with player sickness to take a toll in the second half, and a somewhat "controversial” penalty gave the Lions their chance to equalise.
It was another half chance for captain Josh Tomlinson to take back the lead later on, converting a tough free kick outside the 18-yard box to give Gympie the win with the game hanging in the balance.
"Every player on the field lifted and played well but some recognition to the Tomlinson brothers Josh and Nathan, who both displayed extraordinary qualities to get the job done for Gympie,” Lord said.
Sitting behind Noosa only on goal difference, the Gladiators were still able to hand the Lions their first loss of the season while keeping their own record unblemished after three matches.
Another home clash against the Lions on May 19, could see Gympie take top spot on the ladder, but the likes of Maroochydore and Buderim are others circling the league's top crop.
Lord said the squad's attitude to-date had impressed him, with their collective positivity and efforts set to see them stay competitive late into the season.
"Everyone's keeping a pretty positive attitude at the moment.
"We trained in the rain yesterday night and that didn't deter them at all, they put in a very solid effort and didn't pull back at all.
"They were doing their sprints and high-intensity drills, none of them held back,” he said.
Gladiators president Joel Albion added he had watched Saturday's game and had been very pleased with what he saw on the pitch.
"They played some decent football, especially considering they were missing some key players.
"It's been a great start to the season and we're all confident they'll go far this year,” Albion said.
"We're eyeing them off to be stars of our club in the future, no doubt.
"You've got to be happy with an undefeated start to the season.”