FIRE coach Kevin A'herne-Evans believes Japanese import Futa Nakamura is the NPL's top striker and tipped the Sunshine Coast newcomer to improve throughout his rookie campaign.

Nakamura did not get on the scorer's sheet yesterday, but was a constant threat as his side continued its midseason resurgence with a 1-0 win over Brisbane City at Stockland Stadium.

A'herne-Evans praised the first-year striker, who came into a Fire side desperate for attacking spark this season following the loss of a number of players including Nico Bechar.

"He's just improving all the time and I am yet to see a forward who is better than him," A'herne-Evans said.

Nakamura was unlucky not to notch his seventh of the season, when he beat City keeper Matthew Stein but hit the post.

Moreton Bay Jets' Royce Brownlie led the league with 18 goals going into week 11, with teammate Charles Mendy in second place on 12 goals and Brisbane's Jai Ingham on 11.

Nakamura scored six goals in his first six games and appears to be thriving in his new club.

Fire will also be assisted by a rejuvenated Ryan Delahunty, who broke his seven-game goal drought by snatching the match-winner just before half-time.

Midfielder Dave Macrae had missed Fire's best chance in the 32nd minute when he rocketed one from the penalty spot straight down the throat of Stein and it bounced safely off the keeper's gloves.

"We had about three chances to score in the half," A'herne-Evans said.

Fire could not match their first half intensity in the second stanza and were most dangerous from countering opportunities as City stepped up the intensity.

The end result was not a pretty game, but A'herne-Evans said it showed the kind of grit Fire needed to become serious contenders. "Coaches love that kind of win," he said.

"ONE-nil, when the defensive line all cheers at the end of the game. That's what you want to see."

The team will also receive a boost when skipper Paul Arnison returns from injury but there is no set date for his comeback.

The influential midfielder has been nursing an injured hamstring since last month's 2-0 loss to Redlands and is taking every precaution to ensure he is 100% recovered when he returns.

Fire climbed into eighth place with the win, but the FFA Cup has forced so many rescheduled games the ladder is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie - you probably have to wait until the end to know what happening.

Fire is one of seven teams that have played 12 games this year, while four have played 11 games and two have played 10.


(R Delahunty)


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