Cougars' hard trial
CQ Cougars coach Joe Fenech had hoped for a hard trial to test his players and on Saturday night at Pilbeam Park he got exactly that.
The visiting Whitsunday Miners team was also there for a quality match and both teams played their part in a very entertaining fixture.
Although the final score was 1-1, the respective coaches could look at the result and reflect on chances their team could have won the game.
Considering neither side had played a match against high-level opposition, and the Miners had players who were barely off the plane from England, the game produced spells where each side showed continuity.
For the Cougars it was a vast improvement on last year and proved the local youngsters had learned from their 2011 QSL experience by displaying patience in their build-up play, and attempting to draw Miners defenders out of their comfort zone before feeding the ball into areas where the most damage could be done.
It did not always come off and occasionally there were glaring errors of judgment but that is what trial matches are about and it is up to players to learn from those mistakes.
Dylan Kussrow, playing in front of the back four, is back in the type of form he enjoyed when he last played in the Cougars two years ago and he was solid throughout.
Also impressive was fullback Matt Sauer who looks set for a very good season. Last year Sauer sometimes struggled in the leftback position but looks far more at home since switching flanks.
The Miners created the best early chances with striker Michael Van Moolenbroek given too much freedom to get behind the Cougars centrebacks.
Later, new import Bill Puckett was within a whisker of controlling a through ball with just keeper Tim English to beat.
The visitors thought they had earned a spot kick but Puckett went down too easily for referee Sam Williams to heed that call.
Jordan Miller always looks good linking with fullback Rudi Mozr but he endured a horror moment with a casual pass that Van Moolenbroek latched onto, only to send his shot directly at English who had narrowed his shooting angle.
Before the interval the Cougars had their best spell of the half as a header from Miller flew over the top, a low drive from Sander Westerland was tipped around the post by Irish keeper Aodhon Campbell and then Michael Cay cut in from the right, avoided two tackles before hitting a shot narrowly wide.
With the teams level at 0-0, Jonathon Sauer blew a great chance early in the second spell, volleying high over the bar after Mozr set him up.
But all was forgotten shortly afterwards as Sauer provided the final touch after Miller did well to keep the ball alive before touching a pass into the middle.
It took the Miners less than 10 minutes to reply as the centre-half pairing of Troy Ruthven and Jan Urban were caught flat allowing a pass to be threaded through to Van Moolenbroek who made no mistake with only replacement keeper Joel Morrison to beat.
On the replacement front, for the Cougars, Ben Millar came on and looked very assured when taking over from Kussrow. Chris Swain's brilliant control gave the Miners a few headaches and he could, and should, have scored a winner.
Mozr was also given the chance to show what he can do in the middle of the park but looked better suited to either his fullback role or a wide attacking position.
Saturday evening's trial game at Pilbeam Park
CQ Cougars 1 (Jonathon Sauer) drew Whitsunday Miners 1 (Michael Van Moolenbroek)