IT WAS hard to watch as the Bundaberg Spirit squandered two perfect goal-scoring opportunities in the second half against Sunshine Coast Fire.
The Spirit's 2-0 loss could have been reversed if their execution was any better, but the champion Fire side showed why it has claimed the minor premiership, slotting the ball home when given the chance.
In their final game of their most successful season in the QSL, the Spirit put it all on the line and kept the trainer busy attending to injuries in the process.
Ray Miller hobbled from the field early, while several others felt the full effect of some ferocious clashes.
While it wasn't the most fluent game of football – the blustery conditions making it hard to find any rhythm – it opened up towards the end and allowed Spirit the chance to chip away at the deficit.
Nick Fitzgerald was incisive down the left side on many occasions, while Matt Mills worked hard to provide good ball behind him.
A 0-0 half-time scoreline was broken early in the second stanza when Japanese A-League star Yuta Gonai squeezed one past a motionless ‘keeper Jason McEwan.
That goal stung the Spirit and they pushed harder for the equaliser, but it was the Fire who broke down the left and Gonai was on hand again to knock in the rebound for the decisive 2-0 lead.
Shane Youngberry and Laurie Stephenson both had goals at their mercy, but pushed their efforts over the crossbar.
The what-could-have-been outcome summed up their season, but they can still hold their heads high.
“Credit must go to the Spirit, they played hard and have done themselves and their town proud,” Fire coach Aston Bell said.
He was uncharacteristically full of praise for the Spirit, although he did say his side were not at their best after a tough conditioning session on Thursday.
Spirit coach Richard Mitchell was blowing steam throughout the game, but put on a brave face on the full-time hooter.
“We created chances but could not take them. The Fire did and that's why they are a champion team,” Mitchell said.
The youth battle provided an identical scoreline in the 1pm game.
It was a much-improved display from the Spirit young guns against their bogey team, but they did not quite have the class to overcome them.
Despite their poor finish this year, do not be surprised if they return a major force in the 2011 QSL Youth League.