Fury pinch a point

Robbie Fowler’s debut for Perth Glory has been ruined by a 92nd-minute equaliser by North Queensland’s Chris Grossman in a thrilling 3-3 draw between the sides at nib Stadium on Friday night.

Robbie Fowler’s debut for Perth Glory has been ruined by a 92nd-minute equaliser by North Queensland’s Chris Grossman in a thrilling 3-3 draw between the sides at nib Stadium on Friday night.

Although former Fury skipper Fowler didn’t find the back of the net, his class shone throughout this encounter in front of a Hyundai A-League record crowd for Perth as the Glory opened the scoring in the fifth minute through his strike partner Branko Jelic.

But North Queensland defied the easybeat tag many in the media were brandishing as impressive young striker Chris Payne levelled the score with a spectacular strike in the 34th minute before supplying David Williams for the Fury’s second 64 minutes in.

The Glory fought back to re-take the lead through a Scott Neville thunderbolt 10 minutes later and a glancing header by Mile Sterjovski, but there proved to be another twist in this tale as a late foul from Neville gave North Queensland an injury-time free kick just in from the left corner flag, with Grossman nodding home.

The result continued a poor run of results by Perth against North Queensland, the Glory having not beaten the Fury in four matches played between these sides since North Queensland came into the competition.

Amid all the hype surrounding Fowler, Serbian striker Jelic had been virtually forgotten, especially after missing most of last season’s second half through injury.

But within five minutes of kick-off Jelic showed he’d lost none of his predatory instincts as he found himself on the end of a great move from a throw in on the right.

Steven McGarry nodded the ball forward to an unmarked Adriano Pellegrino, who’s low, skidding cross was glanced into the back of the net by Jelic, who had ghosted in past the Fury defence.

The Glory missed a good chance to double the advantage in the 17th minute after a sizzling cross from Sterjovski on the left found Pellegrino 15 metres out, although Fowler couldn’t quite turn the midfielder’s cross-cum-shot into goal.

North Queensland hadn’t managed to get the ball into the six-yard box until the 14th minute but having weathered the early storm, they started making their presence felt as they gained control of possession.

In the 20th minute the visitors created their first chance when Grossman swung in a free kick from the left that Glory stopper Tando Velaphi could only punch back across goal, although Eric Akoto could only nod his chance wide.

A minute later a Fury corner led to chaos in the box as Velaphi eventually managed to claim the ball in a tangle of arms and legs.

Despite being tipped for the wooden spoon, the Fury had taken complete control of the encounter and soon made their possession count in the 34th minute when Payne picked off a poor pass in defence from Jacob Burns, the former Sydney marksman burying a 20-metre strike that gave Velaphi no chance.

Heading down towards the jam-packed Shed end of the ground the Glory came within a whisker of taking the lead again eight minutes after the break when a 30-metre thunderbolt from defender Neville, ricocheted off the bar.

Neville was causing all sorts of problems down the right, setting up a corner two minutes later that saw Fury stopper Justin Pasfield forced to palm away a bouncing shot by Sterjovski before Fowler then shot over the bar.

Just after the hour a brilliant Fowler throughball released Sterjovski clear on goal but the Glory’s Australian marquee player was well shepherded onto a tighter angle by Pasfield as Sterjovski sent a chipped effort narrowly wide of the left upright.

North Queensland made the Glory pay for their miss in the 64th minute when Payne, famous for his hand-ball goal in last season’s finals series, showed off his skills as he beat the Glory’s defence with a well-weighted ball for Williams to run on and bounce into goal past Velaphi.

Eight minutes later and it almost got worse for the Glory when Adam Casey sent a header narrowly wide of the left upright.

But, once again, a missed chance proved costly two minutes later as Neville buried a powerful 25-metre strike after a Glory corner was nodded into his path by a mis-directed Williams’ header.

With 11 minutes remaining the home crowd went ballistic as a wonderful lob from Harnwell released Pellegrino, whose cross was nodded home by a glancing Sterjovski header.

But there would be an injury-time twist to this encounter as Neville brought down Isaka Cernak just metres in from the left corner flag with a tackle where the defender appeared to have collected some of the ball.

The Fury threw everyone, including ‘keeper Pasfield into the mix for the free kick, but it was defender Grossman who rose highest to nod the ball into the back of the net, sparking wild celebrations on the Fury bench.

Perth Glory 3 (Jelic 5, Neville 74, Sterjovski 79)
North Queensland Fury 3 (Payne 34, Williams 64, Grossman 90)
Crowd: 16,019 at nib Stadium