Brisbane Roar may have come away with only a point from Redcliffe on Sunday, but it’s fans who should feel like the real winners thanks to a vastly improved match-day experience.
With two goals disallowed and a few more excellent efforts wasted, you’d have to think the Roar were the only team that couldn’t score on Valentine’s Day.
They certainly had their chances, with Japanese import Riku Danzaki twice denied by the assistant referee’s flag in what looked like a couple of correct decisions.
The on-loan Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo youngster is fast turning into one of the signings of the season, but he couldn’t find the angle to drive Brisbane into a deserved lead in the 77th minute thanks in no small part to Johnny Koutroumbis’s lunging tackle attempt.
And the Newcastle defence warranted plenty of praise on the back of some desperate rearguard action.
It’s one thing to watch games unfold on TV, but watching live from Moreton Daily Stadium offered a brutal reminder of just how physical the competition’s toughest defenders can be.
Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley may have been around since the start of the A-League, but the veteran defenders put on a clinic of brute force when dealing with the Roar’s nimble attack.
Boogaard in particular targeted Dylan Wenzel-Halls, and while the Ipswich-born tearaway never took a backward step, you could hardly have blamed the pint-sized Roar attacker for going out of his way to avoid the Jets skipper.
Between those two and goalkeeper Jack Duncan the Jets just kept finding a way to keep the Roar out. Had Valentino Yuel not smashed his piledriver against the post shortly before halftime, the Novocastrians might even have left the peninsula with all three points.
But as frustrating as the 0-0 draw will be for Brisbane coach Warren Moon – who could perhaps have turned to his bench more than just once – there’s one area of the game where Roar fans should have no cause for complaint.
And that’s their 11,500-capacity stadium.
It may not always look like it on TV given the main Fox Sports cameras are mounted in the constantly packed western grandstand, but the Roar’s new home is just about perfect.
The atmosphere has been buzzing at all five of the Roar’s games in Redcliffe this season, but it was particularly obvious in the side’s 5-2 thrashing of Melbourne Victory last Saturday.
The hosts may have made a fast start in that one but they were assisted by a parochial home crowd sitting right on top of the action and baying for Victory blood.
And it’s the fact the club now have a home ground where fans can ratchet up the atmosphere that should make Brisbane Roar a genuine threat this season.
All they need to do now is find a way to get a few more fans into that new northern stand.
Before the season kicked off Roar chief executive David Pourre told me he’d made a concerted effort to reduce ticket prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said he couldn’t in good conscience charge fans the same prices they’d been paying at Suncorp Stadium when so many had seen their employment prospects reduced.
There’s no doubt the Roar now boast some of the cheapest tickets in the league, and it was noticeable how many more fans were in the Den yesterday compared even to a week ago.
But there’s only so much the club can do. The one thing some of the hold-outs yet to enjoy the Redcliffe experience need to do is simply find a way to get to a home game.
Because as we saw with Wellington’s 2-0 defeat to the Mariners in yesterday’s other fixture in Wollongong, you can’t put a price on the value of a good home ground.
Redcliffe may not be the Brisbane CBD, but it’s hard to argue the Roar don’t look right at home.